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J Neurophysiol. 2012 Jul;108(2):595-609. doi: 10.1152/jn.00859.2011. Epub 2012 Apr 11.

Electrophysiological classes of layer 2/3 pyramidal cells in monkey prefrontal cortex.

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Sechenov Institute of Evolutionary Physiology and Biochemistry of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Saint-Petersburg, Russia.


The activity of supragranular pyramidal neurons in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) neurons is hypothesized to be a key contributor to the cellular basis of working memory in primates. Therefore, the intrinsic membrane properties, a crucial determinant of a neuron's functional properties, are important for the role of DLPFC pyramidal neurons in working memory. The present study aimed to investigate the biophysical properties of pyramidal cells in layer 2/3 of monkey DLPFC to create an unbiased electrophysiological classification of these cells. Whole cell voltage recordings in the slice preparation were performed in 77 pyramidal cells, and 24 electrophysiological measures of their passive and active intrinsic membrane properties were analyzed. Based on the results of cluster analysis of 16 independent electrophysiological variables, 4 distinct electrophysiological classes of monkey pyramidal cells were determined. Two classes contain regular-spiking neurons with low and high excitability and constitute 52% of the pyramidal cells sampled. These subclasses of regular-spiking neurons mostly differ in their input resistance, minimum current that evoked firing, and current-to-frequency transduction properties. A third class of pyramidal cells includes low-threshold spiking cells (17%), which fire a burst of three-five spikes followed by regular firing at all suprathreshold current intensities. The last class consists of cells with an intermediate firing pattern (31%). These cells have two modes of firing response, regular spiking and bursting discharge, depending on the strength of stimulation and resting membrane potential. Our results show that diversity in the functional properties of DLPFC pyramidal cells may contribute to heterogeneous modes of information processing during working memory and other cognitive operations that engage the activity of cortical circuits in the superficial layers of the DLPFC.

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