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J Neurosci. 1991 Oct;11(10):3200-17.

Network modulation of a slow intrinsic oscillation of cat thalamocortical neurons implicated in sleep delta waves: cortically induced synchronization and brainstem cholinergic suppression.

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  • 1Laboratoire de Neurophysiologie, Faculté de Médecine, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada.


A slow (0.5-4 Hz) oscillation of thalamic neurons was recently described and attributed to the interplay of two intrinsic currents. In this study, we investigated the network modulation of this intrinsic thalamic oscillation within the frequency range of EEG sleep delta-waves. We performed intracellular and extracellular recordings of antidromically identified thalamocortical cells (n = 305) in sensory, motor, associational, and intralaminar nuclei of anesthetized cats. At the resting membrane potential, Vm (-60.3 +/- 0.4 mV, mean +/- SE), cortical stimulation induced spindle-like oscillations (7-14 Hz), whereas at Vm more negative than -65 mV the same stimuli triggered an oscillation within the EEG delta-frequency (0.5-4 Hz), consisting of low-threshold spikes (LTSs) followed by after hyperpolarizing potentials (AHPs). The LTS-AHP sequences outlasted cortical stimuli as a self-sustained rhythmicity at 1-2 Hz. Corticothalamic stimuli were able to transform subthreshold slow (0.5-4 Hz) oscillations, occurring spontaneously at Vm more negative than -65 mV, into rhythmic LTSs crowned by bursts of Na+ spikes that persisted for 10-20 sec after cessation of cortical volleys. Cortical volleys also revived a hyperpolarization-activated slow oscillation when it dampened after a few cycles. Auto- and crosscorrelograms of neuronal pairs revealed that unrelated cells became synchronized after a series of corticothalamic stimuli, with both neurons displaying rhythmic (1-2 Hz) bursts or spike trains. Since delta-thalamic oscillations, prevailing during late sleep stages, are triggered at more negative Vm than spindles characterizing the early sleep stage, we postulate a progressive hyperpolarization of thalamocortical neurons with the deepening of the behavioral state of EEG-synchronized sleep. In view of the evidence that cortical-elicited slow oscillations depend on synaptically induced hyperpolarization of thalamocortical cells, we propose that the potentiating influence of the corticothalamic input results from the engagement of two GABAergic thalamic cell classes, reticular and local-circuit neurons. The thalamocorticothalamic loop would transfer the spike bursts of thalamic oscillating cells to cortical targets, which in turn would reinforce the oscillation by direct pathways and/or indirect projections relayed by reticular and local-circuit thalamic cells. Stimulation of mesopontine cholinergic [peribrachial (PB) and laterodorsal tegmental (LDT)] nuclei in monoamine-depleted animals had an effect that was opposite to that exerted by corticothalamic volleys. PB/LDT stimulation reduced or suppressed the slow (1-4 Hz) oscillatory bursts of high-frequency spikes in thalamic cells.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

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