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Nat Neurosci. 2007 Dec;10(12):1594-600. Epub 2007 Nov 11.

Defining cortical frequency tuning with recurrent excitatory circuitry.

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Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, University of Southern California, 1501 San Pablo Street, Los Angeles, California 90033, USA.


Neurons in the recipient layers of sensory cortices receive excitatory input from two major sources: the feedforward thalamocortical and recurrent intracortical inputs. To address their respective functional roles, we developed a new method for silencing cortex by competitively activating GABA(A) while blocking GABA(B) receptors. In the rat primary auditory cortex, in vivo whole-cell recording from the same neuron before and after local cortical silencing revealed that thalamic input occupied the same area of frequency-intensity tonal receptive field as the total excitatory input, but showed a flattened tuning curve. In contrast, excitatory intracortical input was sharply tuned with a tuning curve that closely matched that of suprathreshold responses. This can be attributed to a selective amplification of cortical cells' responses at preferred frequencies by intracortical inputs from similarly tuned neurons. Thus, weakly tuned thalamocortical inputs determine the subthreshold responding range, whereas intracortical inputs largely define the tuning. Such circuits may ensure a faithful conveyance of sensory information.

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