Among the largest cells in the body, neurons possess an immense surface area and intricate geometry that poses many unique cell biological challenges. This morphological complexity is critical for neural circuit formation and enables neurons to compartmentalize cell–cell communication and local intracellular signalling to a degree that surpasses other cell types. The adaptive plastic properties of neurons, synapses and circuits have been classically studied by measurement of electrophysiological properties, ionic conductances and excitability. Over the last 15 years, the field of synaptic and neural electrophysiology has collided with neuronal cell biology to produce a more integrated understanding of how these remarkable highly differentiated cells utilize common eukaryotic cellular machinery to decode, integrate and propagate signals in the nervous system. The present article gives a very brief and personal overview of the organelles and trafficking machinery of neuronal dendrites and their role in dendritic and synaptic plasticity.

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