Dendritic Ca2+ action potentials in neocortical pyramidal neurons have been characterized in brain slices, but their presence and role in the intact neocortex remain unclear. Here we used two-photon microscopy to demonstrate Ca2+ electrogenesis in apical dendrites of deep-layer pyramidal neurons of rat barrel cortex in vivo. During whisker stimulation, complex spikes recorded intracellularly from distal dendrites and sharp waves in the electrocorticogram were accompanied by large dendritic [Ca2+] transients; these also occurred during bursts of action potentials recorded from somata of identified layer 5 neurons. The amplitude of the [Ca2+] transients was largest proximal to the main bifurcation, where sodium action potentials produced little Ca2+ influx. In some cases, synaptic stimulation evoked [Ca2+] transients without a concomitant action potential burst, suggesting variable coupling between dendrite and soma.
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