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Cereb Cortex. 2011 Jan;21(1):212-21. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhq081. Epub 2010 May 13.

Layer-specific noradrenergic modulation of inhibition in cortical layer II/III.

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  • 1Laboratory of Cell and Synaptic Physiology, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, University of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75080, USA.


Norepinephrine (NE) is released in the neocortex after activation of the locus coeruleus of the brain stem in response to novel, salient, or fight-or-flight stimuli. The role of adrenergic modulation in sensory cortices is not completely understood. We investigated the possibility that NE modifies the balance of inhibition acting on 2 different γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)ergic pathways. Using patch-clamp recordings, we found that the application of NE induces an α(1) adrenergic receptor-mediated decrease of the amplitude of inhibitory postsynaptic currents (IPSCs) evoked by stimulation of layer I (LI-eIPSCs) and a β and α(2) receptor-mediated increase in the amplitude of IPSCs evoked by stimulation of layer II/III (LII/III-eIPSCs). Analysis of minimal stimulation IPSCs, IPSC kinetics, and sensitivity to the GABA(A) receptor subunit-selective enhancer zolpidem corroborated the functional difference between LI- and LII/III-eIPSCs, suggestive of a distal versus somatic origin of LI- and LII/III-eIPSCs, respectively. These findings suggest that NE shifts the balance between distal and somatic inhibition to the advantage of the latter. We speculate that such shift modifies the balance of sensory-specific and emotional information in the integration of neural input to the upper layers of the auditory cortex.

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