Skip to main content
  • Poster presentation
  • Open access
  • Published:

A spatiotemporal model of spine calcium dynamics in the hippocampus

Ca2+-signalling in dendritic spines is required for NMDA receptor-dependent synaptic plasticity at glutamatergic synapses in the hippocampus [1]. However, it is not clear whether plasticity induction is dependent solely on the global signal, i.e., the spine volume-averaged Ca2+ signal; or whether plasticity induction is also sensitive to Ca2+-channel nanodomain signaling [2]. A working hypothesis of this work is that temporal and spatial variations in postsynaptic intracellular [Ca2+]-fields may be significant factors governing the signalling cascades that lead to either long-term synaptic potentiation or depression. Direct measurement of [Ca2+] distributions in dendritic spines is experimentally difficult but we can investigate this hypothesis using mathematical models of Ca2+ diffusion.

We have developed a spatio-temporal model of Ca2+ diffusion in three dimensions. We then study our model using finite element methods. The model allows predictions of intracellular [Ca2+]-field responses to combinations of pre- and post-synaptic spikes with nanometre and millisecond spatio-temporal resolution. Our results so far indicate that Ca2+ signalling is highly spatially non-uniform and that Ca2+ signal differences between induction protocols is dependent on location within the spine. This has implications for the ultimate biological role of the Ca2+ signal given that the relevant receptors in the spine are organised inhomogeneously [3].


  1. Malenka RC, Bear MF: LTP and LTD: an embarrassment of riches. Neuron. 2004, 44 (1): 5-21.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Chen Y, Sabatini BL: Signaling in dendritic spines and spine microdomains. Current Opinion in Neurobiology. 2012, 22 (3): 389-396.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  3. Mori MX, Erickson MG, Yue DT: Functional stoichiometry and local enrichment of calmodulin interacting with Ca2+ channels. Science. 2004, 304 (5669): 432-435.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


Support for this work was provided by the EPSRC, UK (EP/I013717/1).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thom Griffith.

Rights and permissions

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Griffith, T., Mellor, J. & Tsaneva-Atanasova, K. A spatiotemporal model of spine calcium dynamics in the hippocampus. BMC Neurosci 16 (Suppl 1), P268 (2015).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • DOI: