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An Optimized Structure-Function Design Principle Underlies Efficient Signaling Dynamics in Neurons.


Dynamic signaling on branching axons is critical for rapid and efficient communication between neurons in the brain. Efficient signaling in axon arbors depends on a trade-off between the time it takes action potentials to reach synaptic terminals (temporal cost) and the amount of cellular material associated with the wiring path length of the neuron's morphology (material cost). However, where the balance between structural and dynamical considerations for achieving signaling efficiency is, and the design principle that neurons optimize to preserve this balance, is still elusive. In this work, we introduce a novel analysis that compares morphology and signaling dynamics in axonal networks to address this open problem. We show that in Basket cell neurons the design principle being optimized is the ratio between the refractory period of the membrane, and action potential latencies between the initial segment and the synaptic terminals. Our results suggest that the convoluted paths taken by axons reflect a design compensation by the neuron to slow down signaling latencies in order to optimize this ratio. Deviations in this ratio may result in a breakdown of signaling efficiency in the cell. These results pave the way to new approaches for investigating more complex neurophysiological phenomena that involve considerations of neuronal structure-function relationships.

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