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J Neurosci. 2013 Mar 20;33(12):5326-39. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4810-12.2013.

Synaptic mechanisms underlying functional dichotomy between intrinsic-bursting and regular-spiking neurons in auditory cortical layer 5.

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Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90089, USA.


Corticofugal projections from the primary auditory cortex (A1) have been shown to play a role in modulating subcortical processing. However, functional properties of the corticofugal neurons and their synaptic circuitry mechanisms remain unclear. In this study, we performed in vivo whole-cell recordings from layer 5 (L5) pyramidal neurons in the rat A1 and found two distinct neuronal classes according to their functional properties. Intrinsic-bursting (IB) neurons, the L5 corticofugal neurons, exhibited early and rather unselective spike responses to a wide range of frequencies. The exceptionally broad spectral tuning of IB neurons was attributable to their broad excitatory inputs with long temporal durations and inhibitory inputs being more narrowly tuned than excitatory inputs. This uncommon pattern of excitatory-inhibitory interplay was attributed initially to a broad thalamocortical convergence onto IB neurons, which also receive temporally prolonged intracortical excitatory input as well as feedforward inhibitory input at least partially from more narrowly tuned fast-spiking inhibitory neurons. In contrast, regular-spiking neurons, which are mainly corticocortical, exhibited sharp frequency tuning similar to L4 pyramidal cells, underlying which are well-matched purely intracortical excitation and inhibition. The functional dichotomy among L5 pyramidal neurons suggests two distinct processing streams. The spectrally and temporally broad synaptic integration in IB neurons may ensure robust feedback signals to facilitate subcortical function and plasticity in a general manner.

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