Journal of Neurophysiology

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Comparative electrophysiology of pyramidal and sparsely spiny stellate neurons of the neocortex

D. A. McCormick, B. W. Connors, J. W. Lighthall, D. A. Prince


Slices of sensorimotor and anterior cingulate cortex from guinea pigs were maintained in vitro and bathed in a normal physiological medium. Electrophysiological properties of neurons were assessed with intracellular recording techniques. Some neurons were identified morphologically by intracellular injection of the fluorescent dye Lucifer yellow CH. Three distinct neuronal classes of electrophysiological behavior were observed; these were termed regular spiking, bursting, and fast spiking. The physiological properties of neurons from sensorimotor and anterior cingulate areas did not differ significantly. Regular-spiking cells were characterized by action potentials with a mean duration of 0.80 ms at one-half amplitude, a ratio of maximum rate of spike rise to maximum rate of fall of 4.12, and a prominent afterhyperpolarization following a train of spikes. The primary slope of initial spike frequency versus injected current intensity was 241 Hz/nA. During prolonged suprathreshold current pulses the frequency of firing adapted strongly. When local synaptic pathways were activated, all cells were transiently excited and then strongly inhibited. Bursting cells were distinguished by their ability to generate endogenous, all-or-none bursts of three to five action potentials. Their properties were otherwise very similar to regular-spiking cells. The ability to generate a burst was eliminated when the membrane was depolarized to near the firing threshold with tonic current. By contrast, hyperpolarization of regular-spiking (i.e., nonbursting) cells did not uncover latent bursting tendencies. The action potentials of fast-spiking cells were much briefer (mean of 0.32 ms) than those of the other cell types.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)