Slope-based stochastic resonance: how noise enables phasic neurons to encode slow signals.
ABSTRACT: Fundamental properties of phasic firing neurons are usually characterized in a noise-free condition. In the absence of noise, phasic neurons exhibit Class 3 excitability, which is a lack of repetitive firing to steady current injections. For time-varying inputs, phasic neurons are band-pass filters or slope detectors, because they do not respond to inputs containing exclusively low frequencies or shallow slopes. However, we show that in noisy conditions, response properties of phasic neuron models are distinctly altered. Noise enables a phasic model to encode low-frequency inputs that are outside of the response range of the associated deterministic model. Interestingly, this seemingly stochastic-resonance (SR) like effect differs significantly from the classical SR behavior of spiking systems in both the signal-to-noise ratio and the temporal response pattern. Instead of being most sensitive to the peak of a subthreshold signal, as is typical in a classical SR system, phasic models are most sensitive to the signal's rising and falling phases where the slopes are steep. This finding is consistent with the fact that there is not an absolute input threshold in terms of amplitude; rather, a response threshold is more properly defined as a stimulus slope/frequency. We call the encoding of low-frequency signals with noise by phasic models a slope-based SR, because noise can lower or diminish the slope threshold for ramp stimuli. We demonstrate here similar behaviors in three mechanistic models with Class 3 excitability in the presence of slow-varying noise and we suggest that the slope-based SR is a fundamental behavior associated with general phasic properties rather than with a particular biological mechanism.
Project description:Phasic neurons typically fire only for a fast-rising input, say at the onset of a step current, but not for steady or slow inputs, a property associated with type III excitability. Phasic neurons can show extraordinary temporal precision for phase locking and coincidence detection. Exemplars are found in the auditory brain stem where precise timing is used in sound localization. Phasicness at the cellular level arises from a dynamic, voltage-gated, negative feedback that can be recruited subthreshold, preventing the neuron from reaching spike threshold if the voltage does not rise fast enough. We consider two mechanisms for phasicness: a low threshold potassium current (subtractive mechanism) and a sodium current with subthreshold inactivation (divisive mechanism). We develop and analyze three reduced models with either divisive or subtractive mechanisms or both to gain insight into the dynamical mechanisms for the potentially high temporal precision of type III-excitable neurons. We compare their firing properties and performance for a range of stimuli. The models have characteristic non-monotonic input-output relations, firing rate vs. input intensity, for either stochastic current injection or Poisson-timed excitatory synaptic conductance trains. We assess performance according to precision of phase-locking and coincidence detection by the models' responses to repetitive packets of unitary excitatory synaptic inputs with more or less temporal coherence. We find that each mechanism contributes features but best performance is attained if both are present. The subtractive mechanism confers extraordinary precision for phase locking and coincidence detection but only within a restricted parameter range when the divisive mechanism of sodium inactivation is inoperative. The divisive mechanism guarantees robustness of phasic properties, without compromising excitability, although with somewhat less precision. Finally, we demonstrate that brief transient inhibition if properly timed can enhance the reliability of firing.
Project description:Whole cell patch-clamp recordings were used to investigate the contribution of transient, low-threshold calcium currents (I(T)) to firing properties of hamster spinal dorsal horn neurons. I(T) was widely, though not uniformly, expressed by cells in Rexed's laminae I-IV and correlated with the pattern of action potential discharge evoked under current-clamp conditions: I(T) in neurons responding to constant membrane depolarization with one or two action potentials was nearly threefold larger than I(T) in cells responding to the same activation with continuous firing. I(T) was evoked by depolarizing voltage ramps exceeding 46 mV/s and increased with ramp slope (240-2,400 mV/s). Bath application of 200 ?M Ni(2+) depressed ramp-activated I(T). Phasic firing recorded in current clamp could only be activated by membrane depolarizations exceeding ?43-46 mV/s and was blocked by Ni(2+) and mibefradil, suggesting I(T) as an underlying mechanism. Two components of I(T), "fast" and "slow," were isolated based on a difference in time constant of inactivation (12 ms and 177 ms, respectively). The amplitude of the fast subtype depended on the slope of membrane depolarization and was twice as great in burst-firing cells than in cells having a tonic discharge. Post hoc single-cell RT-PCR analyses suggested that the fast component is associated with the Ca(V)3.1 channel subtype. I(T) may enhance responses of phasic-firing dorsal horn neurons to rapid membrane depolarizations and contribute to an ability to discriminate between afferent sensory inputs that encode high- and low-frequency stimulus information.
Project description:Globus pallidus (GP) neurons fire rhythmically in the absence of synaptic input, suggesting that they may encode their inputs as changes in the phase of their rhythmic firing. Action potential afterhyperpolarization (AHP) enhances precision of firing by ensuring that the ion channels recover from inactivation by the same amount on each cycle. Voltage-clamp experiments in slices showed that the longest component of the GP neuron's AHP is blocked by apamin, a selective antagonist of calcium-activated SK channels. Application of 100 nm apamin also disrupted the precision of firing in perforated-patch and cell-attached recordings. SK channel blockade caused a small depolarization in spike threshold and made it more variable, but there was no reduction in the maximal rate of rise during an action potential. Thus, the firing irregularity was not caused solely by a reduction in voltage-gated Na(+) channel availability. Subthreshold voltage ramps triggered a large outward current that was sensitive to the initial holding potential and had properties similar to the A-type K(+) current in GP neurons. In numerical simulations, the availability of both Na(+) and A-type K(+) channels during autonomous firing were reduced when SK channels were removed, and a nearly equal reduction in Na(+) and K(+) subthreshold-activated ion channel availability produced a large decrease in the neuron's slope conductance near threshold. This change made the neuron more sensitive to intrinsically generated noise. In vivo, this change would also enhance the sensitivity of GP neurons to small synaptic inputs.
Project description:Medial septal inputs to the hippocampal system are crucial for aspects of temporal and spatial processing, such as theta oscillations and grid cell firing. However, the precise contributions of the medial septum's cholinergic neurones to these functions remain unknown. Here, we recorded neuronal firing and local field potentials from the medial entorhinal cortex of freely foraging mice, while modulating the excitability of medial septal cholinergic neurones. Alteration of cholinergic activity produced a reduction in the frequency of theta oscillations, without affecting the slope of the non-linear theta frequency vs running speed relationship observed. Modifying septal cholinergic tone in this way also led mice to exhibit behaviours associated with novelty or anxiety. However, grid cell firing patterns were unaffected, concordant with an absence of change in the slopes of the theta frequency and firing rate speed signals thought to be used by grid cells.
Project description:Orexins (hypocretins) are neuropeptides that regulate multiple homeostatic processes, including reward and arousal, in part by exciting serotonergic dorsal raphe neurons, the major source of forebrain serotonin. Here, using mouse brain slices, we found that, instead of simply depolarizing these neurons, orexin-A altered the spike encoding process by increasing the postspike afterhyperpolarization (AHP) via two distinct mechanisms. This orexin-enhanced AHP (oeAHP) was mediated by both OX1 and OX2 receptors, required Ca(2+) influx, reversed near EK, and decayed with two components, the faster of which resulted from enhanced SK channel activation, whereas the slower component decayed like a slow AHP (sAHP), but was not blocked by UCL2077, an antagonist of sAHPs in some neurons. Intracellular phospholipase C inhibition (U73122) blocked the entire oeAHP, but neither component was sensitive to PKC inhibition or altered PKA signaling, unlike classical sAHPs. The enhanced SK current did not depend on IP3-mediated Ca(2+) release but resulted from A-current inhibition and the resultant spike broadening, which increased Ca(2+) influx and Ca(2+)-induced-Ca(2+) release, whereas the slower component was insensitive to these factors. Functionally, the oeAHP slowed and stabilized orexin-induced firing compared with firing produced by a virtual orexin conductance lacking the oeAHP. The oeAHP also reduced steady-state firing rate and firing fidelity in response to stimulation, without affecting the initial rate or fidelity. Collectively, these findings reveal a new orexin action in serotonergic raphe neurons and suggest that, when orexin is released during arousal and reward, it enhances the spike encoding of phasic over tonic inputs, such as those related to sensory, motor, and reward events.Orexin peptides are known to excite neurons via slow postsynaptic depolarizations. Here we elucidate a significant new orexin action that increases and prolongs the postspike afterhyperpolarization (AHP) in 5-HT dorsal raphe neurons and other arousal-system neurons. Our mechanistic studies establish involvement of two distinct Ca(2+)-dependent AHP currents dependent on phospholipase C signaling but independent of IP3 or PKC. Our functional studies establish that this action preserves responsiveness to phasic inputs while attenuating responsiveness to tonic inputs. Thus, our findings bring new insight into the actions of an important neuropeptide and indicate that, in addition to producing excitation, orexins can tune postsynaptic excitability to better encode the phasic sensory, motor, and reward signals expected during aroused states.
Project description:Most neurons do not simply convert inputs into firing rates. Instead, moment-to-moment firing rates reflect interactions between synaptic inputs and intrinsic currents. Few studies investigated how intrinsic currents function together to modulate output discharges and which of the currents attenuated by synthetic cholinergic ligands are actually modulated by endogenous acetylcholine (ACh). In this study we optogenetically stimulated cholinergic fibers in rat neocortex and find that ACh enhances excitability by reducing Ether-à-go-go Related Gene (ERG) K+ current. We find ERG mediates the late phase of spike-frequency adaptation in pyramidal cells and is recruited later than both SK and M currents. Attenuation of ERG during coincident depolarization and ACh release leads to reduced late phase spike-frequency adaptation and persistent firing. In neuronal ensembles, attenuating ERG enhanced signal-to-noise ratios and reduced signal correlation, suggesting that these two hallmarks of cholinergic function in vivo may result from modulation of intrinsic properties.
Project description:The sensitivity of a neuron to its input can be modulated in several ways. Changes in the slope of the neuronal input-output curve depend on factors such as shunting inhibition, background noise, frequency-dependent synaptic excitation, and balanced excitation and inhibition. However, in early development GABAergic interneurons are excitatory and other mechanisms such as asynchronous transmitter release might contribute to regulating neuronal sensitivity. We modeled both phasic and asynchronous synaptic transmission in early development to study the impact of activity-dependent noise and short-term plasticity on the synaptic gain. Asynchronous release decreased or increased the gain depending on the membrane conductance. In the high shunt regime, excitatory input due to asynchronous release was divisive, whereas in the low shunt regime it had a nearly multiplicative effect on the firing rate. In addition, sensitivity to correlated inputs was influenced by shunting and asynchronous release in opposite ways. Thus, asynchronous release can regulate the information flow at synapses and its impact can be flexibly modulated by the membrane conductance.
Project description:Somatostatin-expressing, low threshold-spiking (LTS) cells and fast-spiking (FS) cells are two common subtypes of inhibitory neocortical interneuron. Excitatory synapses from regular-spiking (RS) pyramidal neurons to LTS cells strongly facilitate when activated repetitively, whereas RS-to-FS synapses depress. This suggests that LTS neurons may be especially relevant at high rate regimes and protect cortical circuits against over-excitation and seizures. However, the inhibitory synapses from LTS cells usually depress, which may reduce their effectiveness at high rates. We ask: by which mechanisms and at what firing rates do LTS neurons control the activity of cortical circuits responding to thalamic input, and how is control by LTS neurons different from that of FS neurons? We study rate models of circuits that include RS cells and LTS and FS inhibitory cells with short-term synaptic plasticity. LTS neurons shift the RS firing-rate vs. current curve to the right at high rates and reduce its slope at low rates; the LTS effect is delayed and prolonged. FS neurons always shift the curve to the right and affect RS firing transiently. In an RS-LTS-FS network, FS neurons reach a quiescent state if they receive weak input, LTS neurons are quiescent if RS neurons receive weak input, and both FS and RS populations are active if they both receive large inputs. In general, FS neurons tend to follow the spiking of RS neurons much more closely than LTS neurons. A novel type of facilitation-induced slow oscillations is observed above the LTS firing threshold with a frequency determined by the time scale of recovery from facilitation. To conclude, contrary to earlier proposals, LTS neurons affect the transient and steady state responses of cortical circuits over a range of firing rates, not only during the high rate regime; LTS neurons protect against over-activation about as well as FS neurons.
Project description:In rodents, the infralimbic (IL) region of the medial prefrontal cortex plays a key role in the recall of fear extinction. Previously we showed that fear conditioning decreases the intrinsic excitability of IL neurons, and that fear extinction reverses the depressed excitability. In the current study, we examined the time course of the extinction-induced changes in adolescent rats. Immediately after extinction, IL neurons continued to show depressed excitability. However 4 hours after extinction, IL neurons showed an increase in evoked spikes that correlated with a reduced fast afterhyperpolarizing potential. This suggests that acquisition of fear extinction induces an increase in spike firing 4 hours later, during the consolidation of extinction. We also examined IL excitability in a group of rats that showed spontaneous recovery of fear 17 days after extinction (SR group). Similar to neurons after fear conditioning, IL neurons from the SR group showed depressed intrinsic excitability compared to neurons 4 hours after extinction, suggesting that extinction-induced enhancement in intrinsic excitability decreases with time reverting back to a depressed state. These results suggest that plasticity in IL contributes to the spontaneous recovery of fear and preventing this depression of IL excitability could prolong fear extinction.
Project description:The frequency-intensity receptive fields (RF) of neurons in primary auditory cortex (AI) are heterogeneous. Some neurons have V-shaped RFs, whereas others have enclosed ovoid RFs. Moreover, there is a wide range of temporal response profiles ranging from phasic to tonic firing. The mechanisms underlying this diversity of receptive field properties are yet unknown. Here we study the characteristics of thalamocortical (TC) and intracortical connectivity that give rise to the individual cell responses. Using a mouse auditory TC slice preparation, we found that the amplitude of synaptic responses in AI varies non-monotonically with the intensity of the stimulation in the medial geniculate nucleus (MGv). We constructed a network model of MGv and AI that was simulated using either rate model cells or in vitro neurons through an iterative procedure that used the recorded neural responses to reconstruct network activity. We compared the receptive fields and firing profiles obtained with networks configured to have either cotuned excitatory and inhibitory inputs or relatively broad, lateral inhibitory inputs. Each of these networks yielded distinct response properties consistent with those documented in vivo with natural stimuli. The cotuned network produced V-shaped RFs, phasic-tonic firing profiles, and predominantly monotonic rate-level functions. The lateral inhibitory network produced enclosed RFs with narrow frequency tuning, a variety of firing profiles, and robust non-monotonic rate-level functions. We conclude that both types of circuits must be present to account for the wide variety of responses observed in vivo.