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J Physiol. 1991;440:697-722.

Mechanisms of inhibition in cat visual cortex.

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MRC Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit, Department of Pharmacology, Oxford.


1. Neurones from layers 2-6 of the cat primary visual cortex were studied using extracellular and intracellular recordings made in vivo. The aim was to identify inhibitory events and determine whether they were associated with small or large (shunting) changes in the input conductance of the neurones. 2. Visual stimulation of subfields of simple receptive fields produced depolarizing or hyperpolarizing potentials that were associated with increased or decreased firing rates respectively. Hyperpolarizing potentials were small, 5 mV or less. In the same neurones, brief electrical stimulation of cortical afferents produced a characteristic sequence of a brief depolarization followed by a long-lasting (200-400 ms) hyperpolarization. 3. During the response to a stationary flashed bar, the synaptic activation increased the input conductance of the neurone by about 5-20%. Conductance changes of similar magnitude were obtained by electrically stimulating the neurone. Neurones stimulated with non-optimal orientations or directions of motion showed little change in input conductance. 4. These data indicate that while visually or electrically induced inhibition can be readily demonstrated in visual cortex, the inhibition is not associated with large sustained conductance changes. Thus a shunting or multiplicative inhibitory mechanism is not the principal mechanism of inhibition.

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