Random positions of dendritic spines in human cerebral cortex. Academic Article uri icon


  • Dendritic spines establish most excitatory synapses in the brain and are located in Purkinje cell's dendrites along helical paths, perhaps maximizing the probability to contact different axons. To test whether spine helixes also occur in neocortex, we reconstructed >500 dendritic segments from adult human cortex obtained from autopsies. With Fourier analysis and spatial statistics, we analyzed spine position along apical and basal dendrites of layer 3 pyramidal neurons from frontal, temporal, and cingulate cortex. Although we occasionally detected helical positioning, for the great majority of dendrites we could not reject the null hypothesis of spatial randomness in spine locations, either in apical or basal dendrites, in neurons of different cortical areas or among spines of different volumes and lengths. We conclude that in adult human neocortex spine positions are mostly random. We discuss the relevance of these results for spine formation and plasticity and their functional impact for cortical circuits.

publication date

  • July 23, 2014