Strings on a violin: Location dependence of frequency tuning in active dendrites

Anindita Das, Rahul K. Rathour, Rishikesh Narayanan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Strings on a violin are tuned to generate distinct sound frequencies in a manner that is firmly dependent on finger location along the fingerboard. Sound frequencies emerging from different violins could be very different based on their architecture, the nature of strings and their tuning. Analogously, active neuronal dendrites, dendrites endowed with active channel conductances, are tuned to distinct input frequencies in a manner that is dependent on the dendritic location of the synaptic inputs. Further, disparate channel expression profiles and differences in morphological characteristics could result in dendrites on different neurons of the same subtype tuned to distinct frequency ranges. Alternately, similar location-dependence along dendritic structures could be achieved through disparate combinations of channel profiles and morphological characteristics, leading to degeneracy in active dendritic spectral tuning. Akin to strings on a violin being tuned to different frequencies than those on a viola or a cello, different neuronal subtypes exhibit distinct channel profiles and disparate morphological characteristics endowing each neuronal subtype with unique location-dependent frequency selectivity. Finally, similar to the tunability of musical instruments to elicit distinct location-dependent sounds, neuronal frequency selectivity and its location-dependence are tunable through activity-dependent plasticity of ion channels and morphology. In this morceau, we explore the origins of neuronal frequency selectivity, and survey the literature on the mechanisms behind the emergence of location-dependence in distinct forms of frequency tuning. As a coda to this composition, we present some future directions for this exciting convergence of biophysical mechanisms that endow a neuron with frequency multiplexing capabilities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number72
JournalFrontiers in Cellular Neuroscience
StatePublished - 13 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Das, Rathour and Narayanan.


  • Active dendrites
  • Degeneracy
  • Impedance
  • Intrinsic plasticity
  • Ion channels
  • Oscillations
  • Resonance
  • Spike-triggered average

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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