1. Discharge patterns of neurons are regulated by synaptic inputs and by intrinsic membrane properties such as their complement of ionic conductances. Discharge patterns evoked by synaptic inputs are often used to identify the source and modality of sensory input. However, the interpretation of these discharge patterns may be complicated if different neurons respond to the same synaptic input with a variety of discharge patterns due to differences in intrinsic membrane properties. The purposes of this study were 1) to investigate intrinsic discharge patterns of neurons in primary somatosensory cortex of raccoon in vivo and 2) to use somatosensory postsynaptic potentials evoked by stimulation of forepaw digits to determine thalamocortical connectivity for the same neurons. 2. Conventional intracellular recordings with sharp electrodes were made from 121 neurons in the cortical representation of glabrous skin of digit four (d4). Intracellular injection of identical current pulses (100-120 ms in duration) elicited various patterns of discharge in different neurons. Neurons were classified on the basis of these intrinsic patterns of discharge, rates of spike adaptation, and characteristics of spike waveforms. Three main groups were identified: regular spiking (RS) neurons, intrinsic bursting (IB) neurons, and fast spiking (FS) neurons. Subclasses were identified for the RS and IB groups. 3. Neurons were tested for somatosensory inputs by stimulating electrically d3, d4, and d5. Excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) were elicited in 100% of the neurons by electrical stimulation of d4, the "on-focus" digit. EPSPs were usually followed by inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs). Many neurons (41%) responded with EPSP-IPSP sequences after stimulation of d3 or d5, the "off-focus" digits. 4. Latencies of somatosensory EPSPs and IPSPs were used to determine the synaptic order in the cortical circuitry of RS, IB, and FS neurons. EPSPs with monosynaptic thalamocortical latencies were recorded in RS, IB, and FS neurons. 5. We conclude that precise patterns of neural discharge in primary somatosensory cortex cannot be reliable estimates of sensory inputs reaching these neurons because patterns of discharge are so strongly influenced by intrinsic membrane properties. Ionic conductances governing patterns of neuronal discharge seem almost identical in intact cortex of raccoon, rat, and cat, and in slices of rodent cortex, because similar patterns of discharge are found. The consistency of patterns of discharge across species and types of preparation suggests that these intrinsic membrane properties are a general property of cerebral cortical neurons and should be considered when evaluation sensory coding by these neurons.
- Copyright © 1994 the American Physiological Society