Send to

Choose Destination
Neurosci Bull. 2012 Jun;28(3):271-81. doi: 10.1007/s12264-012-1241-7.

SK channels modulate the excitability and firing precision of projection neurons in the robust nucleus of the arcopallium in adult male zebra finches.

Author information

School of Life Science, South China Normal University, Key Laboratory of Ecology and Environmental Science in Higher Education of Guangdong Province, Guangzhou 510631, China.



Motor control is encoded by neuronal activity. Small conductance Ca(2+)-activated K(+) channels (SK channels) maintain the regularity and precision of firing by contributing to the afterhyperpolarization (AHP) of the action potential in mammals. However, it is not clear how SK channels regulate the output of the vocal motor system in songbirds. The premotor robust nucleus of the arcopallium (RA) in the zebra finch is responsible for the output of song information. The temporal pattern of spike bursts in RA projection neurons is associated with the timing of the acoustic features of birdsong.


The firing properties of RA projection neurons were analyzed using patch clamp whole-cell and cell-attached recording techniques.


SK channel blockade by apamin decreased the AHP amplitude and increased the evoked firing rate in RA projection neurons. It also caused reductions in the regularity and precision of firing. RA projection neurons displayed regular spontaneous action potentials, while apamin caused irregular spontaneous firing but had no effect on the firing rate. In the absence of synaptic inputs, RA projection neurons still had spontaneous firing, and apamin had an evident effect on the firing rate, but caused no significant change in the firing regularity, compared with apamin application in the presence of synaptic inputs.


SK channels contribute to the maintenance of firing regularity in RA projection neurons which requires synaptic activity, and consequently ensures the precision of song encoding.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center