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Neuron. 2005 Apr 7;46(1):129-40.

Unitary IPSPs drive precise thalamic spiking in a circuit required for learning.

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Graduate Program in Neurobiology and Behavior, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.


Song learning in birds requires a basal ganglia-thalamo-pallial loop that contains a calyceal GABAergic synapse in the thalamus. Information processing within this circuit is critical for proper song development; however, it is unclear whether activation of the inhibitory output of the basal ganglia structure Area X can drive sustained activity in its thalamic target, the medial portion of the dorsolateral thalamic nucleus (DLM). We show that high-frequency, random activation of this GABAergic synapse can drive precisely timed firing in DLM neurons in brain slices in the absence of excitatory input. Complex IPSP trains, including spike trains recorded in vivo, drive spiking in slices with high reproducibility, even between animals. Using a simple model, we can predict much of DLM's response to natural stimulus trains. These data elucidate basic rules by which thalamic relay neurons translate IPSPs into suprathreshold output and demonstrate extrathalamic GABAergic activation of thalamus.

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