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Shunting inhibition is termed "shunting" because the synaptic conductance short-circuits currents that are generated at adjacent excitatory synapses. If a shunting inhibitory synapse is activated, the input resistance is reduced locally and, following Ohm's law, the amplitude of subsequent Excitatory postsynaptic potential (EPSPs) is reduced. This simple scenario arises if the synaptic reversal potential is identical to the resting potential.[1]

Shunting inhibition was theorized to be a type of gain control mechanism, regulating the responses of neurons.[2][3] Simple inhibition such as hyperpolarization has a subtractive effect on the depolarization caused by concurrent excitation, whereas shunting inhibition was hoped to account for a divisive effect.[4]

Although the importance of gain modulation and multiplicative interaction in general has been appreciated for many years, it has proven difficult to uncover a realistic biophysical mechanism by which it can occur. It is important to note that, despite comments in the literature to the contrary (see above), divisive inhibition of neuronal responses cannot arise from shunting inhibition. This has been shown theoretically as well as experimentally - inhibition has the same subtractive effect on firing rates whether it is of the shunting or hyperpolarizing variety.[4]

Thus, shunting inhibition does not provide a plausible mechanism for neuronal gain modulation.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. scholarpedia
  2. Eccles, JC (1964). The Physiology of Synapses, Berlin: Springer-Verlag.
  3. Blomfield S (March 1974). Arithmetical operations performed by nerve cells. Brain Res. 69 (1): 115–24.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Abbott LF and Chance FS (2005). Drivers and modulators from push-pull balnced synaptic input. Progress in Brain Research 149: 147–155.

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