Voltage clamp errors during estimation of concurrent excitatory and inhibitory synaptic input to neurons with dendrites

Minh Son To, Suraj Honnuraiah, Greg J. Stuart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The whole-cell voltage clamp technique is commonly used to estimate synaptic conductances. While previous work has shown how these estimates are affected by series resistance and space clamp errors during isolated synaptic events, how voltage clamp errors impact on synaptic conductance estimates during concurrent excitation and inhibition is less clear. This issue is particularly relevant given that many studies now use the whole-cell voltage clamp technique to estimate synaptic conductances in vivo, where both excitation and inhibition are intact. Using both simplistic and morphologically realistic models, we investigate how imperfect voltage clamp conditions distort estimates of excitatory and inhibitory synaptic conductance estimated using the Borg-Graham method during concurrent synaptic input onto dendrites. These simulations demonstrate that dendritically located conductances are underestimated even when dynamic clamp reinjection faithfully reproduces the voltage response at the soma to the actual conductances. Inhibitory conductances are underestimated more than excitatory conductances, leading to errors in the excitatory to inhibitory conductance ratio and negative inhibitory conductance estimates during distal inhibition. Interactions between unclamped dendritic excitatory and inhibitory conductances also introduce correlations when the actual conductances are uncorrelated, as well as distortions in the time course of estimated excitatory and inhibitory conductances. Finally, we show that space clamp errors are exacerbated by the inclusion of dendritic voltage-activated conductances. In summary, we highlight issues with the interpretation of synaptic conductance estimates obtained using somatic whole-cell voltage clamp during concurrent excitatory and inhibitory input to neurons with dendrites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-110
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • dendrites
  • model
  • space-clamp
  • synaptic input
  • voltage-clamp

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