Dendritic arbor structure determines the presynaptic inputs to the neuron, the integration of input information and output from the cell. Consequently, mechanisms regulating the development and maintenance of dendritic arbor structure play a critical role in circuit function. In vivo imaging studies have identified cellular events underlying dendritic arbor development. Branch additions and retractions are concurrent during dendritic arbor development, and even after arbor growth has reached a plateau. Arbor growth or retraction is determined by the relative balance of branch additions and retractions over time. Dendritic branch dynamics are in turn regulated by the formation and maintenance of excitatory and inhibitory synapses. Diseases and disease genes that affect synaptogenesis and synaptic plasticity are therefore predicted to affect structural development and integrative function of dendrites, and by extension, information processing and circuit function. Homeostatic mechanisms operate to counteract the effects of disease perturbations on dendrite development and neuronal and circuit function.
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