The basal and distal apical dendrites of pyramidal cells occupy distinct cortical layers and are targeted by axons originating in different cortical regions. Hence, apical and basal dendrites receive information from distinct sources. Physiological evidence suggests that this anatomically observed segregation of input sources may have functional significance. This possibility has been explored in various connectionist models that employ neurons with functionally distinct apical and basal compartments. A neuron in which separate sets of inputs can be integrated independently has the potential to operate in a variety of ways which are not possible for the conventional model of a neuron in which all inputs are treated equally. This article thus considers how functionally distinct apical and basal dendrites can contribute to the information processing capacities of single neurons and, in particular, how information from different cortical regions could have disparate affects on neural activity and learning
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