Astrocytes intimately interact with synapses, both morphologically and, as evidenced in the past 20 years, at the functional level. Ultrathin astrocytic processes contact and sometimes enwrap the synaptic elements, sense synaptic transmission and shape or alter the synaptic signal by releasing signalling molecules. Yet, the consequences of such interactions in terms of information processing in the brain remain very elusive. This is largely due to two major constraints: (i) the exquisitely complex, dynamic and ultrathin nature of distal astrocytic processes that renders their investigation highly challenging and (ii) our lack of understanding of how information is encoded by local and global fluctuations of intracellular calcium concentrations in astrocytes. Here, we will review the existing anatomical and functional evidence of local interactions between astrocytes and synapses, and how it underlies a role for astrocytes in the computation of synaptic information.
This article is part of the themed issue ‘Integrating Hebbian and homeostatic plasticity’.
One contribution of 16 to a discussion meeting issue ‘Integrating Hebbian and homeostatic plasticity’.
- Accepted July 27, 2016.
- © 2017 The Author(s)
Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.