Rapid Changes in Thalamic Firing Synchrony during Repetitive Whisker Stimulation

Department of Neurobiology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15261, USA.
The Journal of Neuroscience : The Official Journal of the Society for Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 6.75). 11/2008; 28(44):11153-64. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1586-08.2008
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Thalamic firing synchrony is thought to ensure selective transmission of relevant sensory information to the recipient cortical neurons by rendering them more responsive to temporally correlated input spikes. However, direct evidence for a synchrony code in the thalamus is limited. Here, we directly measure thalamic firing synchrony and its stimulus-induced modulation over time, using simultaneous single unit recordings from individual thalamic barreloids in the rat somatosensory whisker/barrel system. Employing whisker deflections varying in velocity or frequency and a cross-correlation approach, we find systematic changes in both time course and strength of thalamic firing synchrony as a function of stimulus parameters and sensory adaptation. Synchrony develops faster and is greater with higher velocity deflections. Greater firing synchrony reflects stimulus-dependent increases in instantaneous firing rates, greater spike time precision relative to stimulus onset as well as common input that likely arises from divergent trigeminothalamic and corticothalamic neurons. With adaptation, synchrony decreases and takes longer to develop but is more dependent on the cells' common inputs. Rapid, sharp increases in thalamic synchrony mirroring quick increases in whisker velocity occur also during ongoing random, high-frequency whisker vibrations. Together, results demonstrate millisecond by millisecond changes in thalamic near-synchronous firing during complex patterns of ongoing vibrissa movements that may ensure transmission of preferred sensory information in local thalamocortical circuits during whisking and active touch.

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