Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Neuroscience and BioMed Central.

This article is part of the supplement: Seventeenth Annual Computational Neuroscience Meeting: CNS*2008

Open Access Open Badges Poster presentation

Voltage attenuation in reconstructed type-identified motor neurons as a constraint for reduced models

Hojeong Kim1, Lora A Major2 and Kelvin E Jones12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, T6G 2V2

2 Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada, T6G 2H9

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Neuroscience 2008, 9(Suppl 1):P55  doi:10.1186/1471-2202-9-S1-P55

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published:11 July 2008

© 2008 Kim et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


Attenuation of voltage in dendrites depends on the direction of propagation [1]: Direction Dependent Voltage Attenuation (DDVA). This study's objectives were to: 1) determine whether DDVA differed for motor neurons of different types (i.e. slow – fast), and 2) derive the cable parameters for reduced models that satisfy DDVA for the heteronymous properties of motor neurons in a pool.


The morphologies of six type-identified cat spinal motor neurons were downloaded from a public database [2] and imported into the NEURON simulation environment. Passive parameters were set to experimentally determined values from these same cells [3]. DDVA was characterized by calculating the voltage attenuation between the soma and all sites on the dendrites in both directions.


Voltage attenuation changed rapidly with distance from the soma for central propagation (Fig 1 left) compared to the peripheral direction (Fig 1 right). The change in voltage attenuation with distance was well described by a single exponential function, fitting a voltage decay constant (VDC). A comparison of VDCs for S, FR and FF-type motor neurons did not reveal significant differences resulting from type-specific morphology. The input resistance of the six anatomical models was varied from 0.4 – 4.0 MOhm by changing passive parameters. All models had similar monotonic relationships between input resistance and VDC. These results were used to derive two-compartment models in which all cable parameters could be determined analytically by specifying the parameters of input resistance and distance between soma and dendrite compartments.

thumbnailFigure 1. DDVA in an adult cat spinal cord motor neuron.


Type-specific dendritic morphology had no obvious effect on DDVA. DDVA in spinal motor neurons was fully characterized by input resistance at the soma. The two-compartment models are the first to analytically solve for reduced cable parameters based on reconstructed neurons. This solution has important implications for the bistable firing behavior in these cells.


Work supported by grants from NSERC and AHFMR.


  1. Rall W, Rinzel J: Branch input resistance and steady attenuation for input to one branch of a dendritic neuron model.

    Biophys J 1973, 13:648-687. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text | PubMed Central Full Text OpenURL

  2. Ascoli GA, Donohue DE, Halavi M: NeuroMorpho.Org: a central resource for neuronal morphologies.

    J Neurosci 2007, 27:9247-9251. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL

  3. Fleshman JW, Segev I, Burke RB: Electrotonic architecture of type-identified alpha-motoneurons in the cat spinal cord.

    J Neurophysiol 1988, 60:60-85. PubMed Abstract | Publisher Full Text OpenURL