Morphology and membrane properties of neurones in the cat ventrobasal thalamus in vitro

Jonathan P. Turner, Caroline M. Anderson, Stephen R. Williams, Vincenzo Crunelli

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    1. The morphological (n = 66) and electrophysiological (n = 41) properties of eighty-six thalamocortical (TC) neurones and those of one interneurone in the cat ventrobasal (VB) thalamus were examined using an in vitro slice preparation. The resting membrane potential for thirty-seven TC neurones was -61.9 ± 0.7 mV, with thirteen neurones exhibiting delta oscillation with and without DC injection. 2. The voltage-current relationships of TC neurones were highly non-linear, with a mean peak input resistance of 254.4 MΩ and a mean steady-state input resistance of 80.6 MΩ between -60 and -75 mV. At potentials more positive than -60 mV, outward rectification led to a mean steady-state input resistance of 13.3 MΩ. At potentials more negative than -75 mV, there was inward rectification, consisting of a fast component leading to a mean peak input resistance of 14.5 MΩ, and a slow time-dependent component leading to a mean steady-state input resistance of 10.6 MΩ. 3. Above -60 mV, three types of firing were exhibited by TC neurones. The first was an accelerating pattern associated with little spike broadening and a late component in the spike after-hyperpolarization. The second was an accommodating or intermittent pattern associated with spike broadening, while the third was a burst-suppressed pattern of firing also associated with spike broadening, but with broader spikes of a smaller amplitude. All TC neurones evoked high frequency (310-520 Hz) burst firing mediated by a low threshold Ca2+ potential. 4. Morphologically TC neurones were divided into two groups: Type I (n = 31 neurones) which had larger soma, dendritic arbors that occupied more space, thicker primary dendrites and daughter dendrites that followed a more direct course than Type II (n = 35). The only electrophysiological differences were that Type I neurones (n = 16) had smaller peak input and outward rectification resistance and spike after-hyperpolarization, but greater peak inward rectification resistance, and exhibited delta oscillation less often than Type II (n = 13). 5. The morphologically identified interneurone exhibited no outward rectification, only moderate inward rectification, and no high frequency firing associated with the offset of negative current steps below -55 mV. This interneurone had a regular accommodating firing pattern, but the spike after-hyperpolarization had a late component, unlike the accommodating firing in TC neurones. 6. Therefore, the differentiation of TC neuronal types in the cat VB thalamus based on their morphology was reflected by differences in peak input resistance, outward rectification and spike after-hyperpolarization, which could be accounted for by their difference in soma size. More importantly, the firing pattern of the majority of TC neurones in the cat VB thalamus were different from those of TC neurones in other sensory thalamic nuclei. 7. Thalamocortical neurones in the cat VB thalamus were also clearly distinguishable from the interneurone based on the presence of their prominent outward rectification, peak inward rectification and robust low threshold Ca2+ potentials.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)707-726
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Physiology
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 1997


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