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J Neurosci. 2003 Apr 15;23(8):3100-5.

Imaging spatiotemporal dynamics of surround inhibition in the barrels somatosensory cortex.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology, The Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Sensory processing and its perception require that local information would also be available globally. Indeed, in the mammalian neocortex, local excitation spreads over large distances via the long-range horizontal connections in layer 2/3 and may spread over an entire cortical area if excitatory polysynaptic pathways are also activated. Therefore, a balance between local excitation and surround inhibition is required. Here we explore the spatiotemporal aspects of cortical depolarization and hyperpolarization of rats anesthetized with urethane. New voltage-sensitive dyes (VSDs) were used for high-resolution real-time visualization of the cortical responses to whisker deflections and cutaneous stimulations of the whisker pad. These advances facilitated imaging of ongoing activity and evoked responses even without signal averaging. We found that the motion of a single whisker evoked a cortical response exhibiting either one or three phases. During a triphasic response, there was first a cortical depolarization in a small cortical region the size of a single cortical barrel. Subsequently, this depolarization increased and spread laterally in an oval manner, preferentially along rows of the barrel field. During the second phase, the amplitude of the evoked response declined rapidly, presumably because of recurrent inhibition. Subsequently, the third phase exhibiting a depolarization rebound was observed and clear, and approximately 16 Hz oscillations were detected. Stimulus conditions revealing a net surround hyperpolarization during the second phase were also found. By using new, improved VSD, the present findings shed new light on the spatial parameters of the intricate spatiotemporal cortical interplay of inhibition and excitation.

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