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J Physiol. 1991 Sep;441:155-74.

Low-frequency oscillatory activities intrinsic to rat and cat thalamocortical cells.

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Department of Visual Science, Institute of Ophthalmology, London.


1. Low-frequency membrane potential oscillations recorded intracellularly from thalamocortical (TC) cells of the rat and cat dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) and of the rat ventrobasal nucleus (VB) maintained in vitro were investigated. On the basis of their electrophysiological and pharmacological properties, four types of activity were distinguished and named: the pacemaker oscillations, the spindle-like oscillations, the 'very slow' oscillations and the 'N-methyl-D-aspartate' (NMDA) oscillations. 2. The pacemaker oscillations (95 out of 173 cells) consisted of rhythmic, large-amplitude (10-30 mV) depolarizations which occurred at a frequency of 1.8 +/- 0.3 Hz (range, 0.5-2.9 Hz) and could often give rise to single or a burst of action potentials. Pacemaker oscillations were observed when the membrane potential was moved negative to -55 and positive to -80 mV, but in a given cell the upper and lower limits of this voltage range were separated by only 13.1 +/- 0.5 mV. Above -45 mV tonic firing consisting of single action potentials was seen in the cells showing this or the other types of low-frequency oscillations. 3. The spindle-like oscillations were observed in thirty-nine (out of 173) TC cells and consisted of rhythmic (2.1 +/- 0.3 Hz), large-amplitude depolarizations (and often associated burst firing) similar to the pacemaker oscillations but occurring in discrete periods every 5-25 s and lasting for 1.5-28 s. The spindle-like oscillations were observed when the membrane potential was moved negative to -55 and positive to -80 mV and in two cells they were transformed into continuous pacemaker oscillations by depolarization of the membrane potential to -60 mV. 4. Pacemaker and spindle-like oscillations were unaffected by tetrodotoxin (TTX) or by selective blockade of NMDA, non-NMDA, GABAA, GABAB, nicotinic, muscarinic, alpha- and beta-noradrenergic receptors. 5. The 'very slow' oscillations consisted of a TTX-insensitive, slow hyperpolarization-depolarization sequence (5-15 mV in amplitude) which lasted up to 90 s and was observed in nine dLGN cells and in two VB cells. The pacemaker and the spindle-like oscillations were recorded in one cell each which also showed the 'very slow' oscillations. 6. The 'NMDA' oscillations were observed only in a 'Mg(2+)-free' medium (0 mM-Mg2+, 2-4 mM-Ca2+; 64 out of 72 cells) and consisted of large-amplitude (10-25 mV) depolarizations that did not occur at regular intervals and were intermixed with smaller depolarizations present on the baseline and on the falling phase of the larger ones.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS).

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