Cortical control of adaptation and sensory relay mode in the thalamus.
ABSTRACT: A major synaptic input to the thalamus originates from neurons in cortical layer 6 (L6); however, the function of this cortico-thalamic pathway during sensory processing is not well understood. In the mouse whisker system, we found that optogenetic stimulation of L6 in vivo results in a mixture of hyperpolarization and depolarization in the thalamic target neurons. The hyperpolarization was transient, and for longer L6 activation (>200 ms), thalamic neurons reached a depolarized resting membrane potential which affected key features of thalamic sensory processing. Most importantly, L6 stimulation reduced the adaptation of thalamic responses to repetitive whisker stimulation, thereby allowing thalamic neurons to relay higher frequencies of sensory input. Furthermore, L6 controlled the thalamic response mode by shifting thalamo-cortical transmission from bursting to single spiking. Analysis of intracellular sensory responses suggests that L6 impacts these thalamic properties by controlling the resting membrane potential and the availability of the transient calcium current IT, a hallmark of thalamic excitability. In summary, L6 input to the thalamus can shape both the overall gain and the temporal dynamics of sensory responses that reach the cortex.
Project description:The cellular organization of the cortex is of fundamental importance for elucidating the structural principles that underlie its functions. It has been suggested that reconstructing the structure and synaptic wiring of the elementary functional building block of mammalian cortices, the cortical column, might suffice to reverse engineer and simulate the functions of entire cortices. In the vibrissal area of rodent somatosensory cortex, whisker-related "barrel" columns have been referred to as potential cytoarchitectonic equivalents of functional cortical columns. Here, we investigated the structural stereotypy of cortical barrel columns by measuring the 3D neuronal composition of the entire vibrissal area in rat somatosensory cortex and thalamus. We found that the number of neurons per cortical barrel column and thalamic "barreloid" varied substantially within individual animals, increasing by ?2.5-fold from dorsal to ventral whiskers. As a result, the ratio between whisker-specific thalamic and cortical neurons was remarkably constant. Thus, we hypothesize that the cellular architecture of sensory cortices reflects the degree of similarity in sensory input and not columnar and/or cortical uniformity principles.
Project description:Stimulus specific adaptation has been studied extensively in different modalities. High specificity implies that deviant stimulus induces a stronger response compared to a common stimulus. The thalamus gates sensory information to the cortex, therefore, the specificity of adaptation in the thalamus must have a great impact on cortical processing of sensory inputs. We studied the specificity of adaptation to whisker identity in the ventral posteromedial nucleus of the thalamus (VPM) in rats using extracellular and intracellular recordings. We found that subsequent to repetitive stimulation that induced strong adaptation, the response to stimulation of the same, or any other responsive whisker was equally adapted, indicating that thalamic adaptation is non-specific. In contrast, adaptation of single units in the upstream brainstem principal trigeminal nucleus (PrV) was significantly more specific. Depolarization of intracellularly recorded VPM cells demonstrated that adaptation is not due to buildup of inhibition. In addition, adaptation increased the probability of observing complete synaptic failures to tactile stimulation. In accordance with short-term synaptic depression models, the evoked synaptic potentials in response to whisker stimulation, subsequent to a response failure, were facilitated. In summary, we show that local short-term synaptic plasticity is involved in the transformation of adaptation in the trigemino-thalamic synapse and that the low specificity of adaptation in the VPM emerges locally rather than cascades from earlier stages. Taken together we suggest that during sustained stimulation, local thalamic mechanisms equally suppress inputs arriving from different whiskers before being gated to the cortex.
Project description:Primary sensory cortical areas receive information through multiple thalamic channels. In the rodent whisker system, lemniscal and paralemniscal thalamocortical projections, from the ventral posteromedial nucleus (VPM) and posterior medial nucleus (POm) respectively, carry distinct types of sensory information to cortex. Little is known about how these separate streams of activity are parsed and integrated within the neocortical microcircuit. We used quantitative laser scanning photostimulation to probe the organization of functional thalamocortical and ascending intracortical projections in the mouse barrel cortex. To map the thalamocortical projections, we recorded from neocortical excitatory neurons while stimulating VPM or POm. Neurons in layers (L)4, L5, and L6A received dense input from thalamus (L4, L5B, and L6A from VPM; and L5A from POm), whereas L2/3 neurons rarely received thalamic input. We further mapped the lemniscal and paralemniscal circuits from L4 and L5A to L2/3. Lemniscal L4 neurons targeted L3 within a column. Paralemniscal L5A neurons targeted a superficial band (thickness, 60 mum) of neurons immediately below L1, defining a functionally distinct L2 in the mouse barrel cortex. L2 neurons received input from lemniscal L3 cells and paralemniscal L5A cells spread over multiple columns. Our data indicate that lemniscal and paralemniscal information is segregated into interdigitated cortical layers.
Project description:The thalamus is a key brain element in the processing of sensory information. During the sleep and awake states, this brain area is characterized by the presence of two distinct dynamical regimes: in the sleep state activity is dominated by spindle oscillations (7 - 15 Hz) weakly affected by external stimuli, while in the awake state the activity is primarily driven by external stimuli. Here we develop a simple and computationally efficient model of the thalamus that exhibits two dynamical regimes with different information-processing capabilities, and study the transition between them. The network model includes glutamatergic thalamocortical (TC) relay neurons and GABAergic reticular (RE) neurons described by adaptive integrate-and-fire models in which spikes are induced by either depolarization or hyperpolarization rebound. We found a range of connectivity conditions under which the thalamic network composed by these neurons displays the two aforementioned dynamical regimes. Our results show that TC-RE loops generate spindle-like oscillations and that a minimum level of clustering (i.e. local connectivity density) in the RE-RE connections is necessary for the coexistence of the two regimes. We also observe that the transition between the two regimes occurs when the external excitatory input on TC neurons (mimicking sensory stimulation) is large enough to cause a significant fraction of them to switch from hyperpolarization-rebound-driven firing to depolarization-driven firing. Overall, our model gives a novel and clear description of the role that the two types of neurons and their connectivity play in the dynamical regimes observed in the thalamus, and in the transition between them. These results pave the way for the development of efficient models of the transmission of sensory information from periphery to cortex.
Project description:In the mouse whisker system, the contribution of L6 corticothalamic cells (L6 CT) to cortical and thalamic processing of the whisker deflection direction was investigated. A genetically defined population of L6 CT cells project to infragranular GABAergic interneurons that hyperpolarize neurons in somatosensory barrel cortex (BC). Optogenetic activation of these neurons switched BC to an adapted mode in which excitatory cells lost their angular tuning. In contrast, however, this was not the case with a general activation of inhibitory interneurons via optogenetic activation of Gad2-expressing cells. The decrease in angular tuning, when L6 CT cells were activated, was due to changes in cortical inhibition, and not inherited from changes in the thalamic output. Furthermore, L6 CT driven cortical inhibition, but not the general activation of GABAergic interneurons, abolished adaptation to whisker responses. In the present study, evidence is presented that a subpopulation of L6 CT activates a specific circuit of GABAergic interneurons that will predispose neocortex toward processing of tactile information requiring multiple whisker touches, such as in a texture discrimination task.
Project description:Many immediate early genes (IEGs) have activity-dependent induction in a subset of brain subdivisions or neuron types. However, none have been reported yet with regulation specific to thalamic-recipient sensory neurons of the telencephalon or in the thalamic sensory input neurons themselves. Here, we report the first such gene, dual specificity phosphatase 1 (dusp1). Dusp1 is an inactivator of mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), and MAPK activates expression of egr1, one of the most commonly studied IEGs, as determined in cultured cells. We found that in the brain of naturally behaving songbirds and other avian species, hearing song, seeing visual stimuli, or performing motor behavior caused high dusp1 upregulation, respectively, in auditory, visual, and somatosensory input cell populations of the thalamus and thalamic-recipient sensory neurons of the telencephalic pallium, whereas high egr1 upregulation occurred only in subsequently connected secondary and tertiary sensory neuronal populations of these same pathways. Motor behavior did not induce high levels of dusp1 expression in the motor-associated areas adjacent to song nuclei, where egr1 is upregulated in response to movement. Our analysis of dusp1 expression in mouse brain suggests similar regulation in the sensory input neurons of the thalamus and thalamic-recipient layer IV and VI neurons of the cortex. These findings suggest that dusp1 has specialized regulation to sensory input neurons of the thalamus and telencephalon; they further suggest that this regulation may serve to attenuate stimulus-induced expression of egr1 and other IEGs, leading to unique molecular properties of forebrain sensory input neurons.
Project description:The rodent ventrobasal (VB) thalamus receives sensory inputs from the whiskers and projects to the cortex, from which it receives reciprocal excitatory afferents. Much is known about the properties and functional roles of these glutamatergic inputs to thalamocortical neurons in the VB, but no data are available on how these afferents can affect thalamic glial cells. In this study, we used combined electrophysiological recordings and intracellular calcium ([Ca(2+)](i)) imaging to investigate glial cell responses to synaptic afferent stimulation. VB thalamus glial cells can be divided into two groups based on their [Ca(2+)](i) and electrophysiological responses to sensory and corticothalamic stimulation. One group consists of astrocytes, which stain positively for S100B and preferentially load with SR101, have linear current-voltage relations and low input resistance, show no voltage-dependent [Ca(2+)](i) responses, but express mGluR5-dependent [Ca(2+)](i) transients following stimulation of the sensory and/or corticothalamic excitatory afferent pathways. Cells of the other glial group, by contrast, stain positively for NG2, and are characterized by high input resistance, the presence of voltage-dependent [Ca(2+)](i) elevations and voltage-gated inward currents. There were no synaptically induced [Ca(2+)](i) elevations in these cells under control conditions. These results show that thalamic glial cell responses to synaptic input exhibit different properties to those of thalamocortical neurons. As VB astrocytes can respond to synaptic stimulation and signal to neighbouring neurons, this glial cell organization may have functional implications for the processing of somatosensory information and modulation of behavioural state-dependent thalamocortical network activities.
Project description:Mouse primary somatosensory barrel cortex (wS1) processes whisker sensory information, receiving input from two distinct thalamic nuclei. The first-order ventral posterior medial (VPM) somatosensory thalamic nucleus most densely innervates layer 4 (L4) barrels, whereas the higher-order posterior thalamic nucleus (medial part, POm) most densely innervates L1 and L5A. We optogenetically stimulated VPM or POm axons, and recorded evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) in different cell-types across cortical layers in wS1. We found that excitatory neurons and parvalbumin-expressing inhibitory neurons received the largest EPSPs, dominated by VPM input to L4 and POm input to L5A. In contrast, somatostatin-expressing inhibitory neurons received very little input from either pathway in any layer. Vasoactive intestinal peptide-expressing inhibitory neurons received an intermediate level of excitatory input with less apparent layer-specificity. Our data help understand how wS1 neocortical microcircuits might process and integrate sensory and higher-order inputs.
Project description:The whisker system of rodents is an excellent model to study peripherally evoked neural activity in the brain. Discrete neural modules represent each whisker in the somatosensory cortex ("barrels"), thalamus ("barreloids"), and brain stem ("barrelettes"). Stimulation of a single whisker evokes neural activity sequentially in its corresponding barrelette, barreloid, and barrel. Conventional optical imaging of functional activation in the brain is limited to surface structures such as the cerebral cortex. To access subcortical structures and image sensory-evoked neural activity, we designed a needle-based optical system using gradient-index (GRIN) rod lens. We performed voltage-sensitive dye imaging (VSDi) with GRIN rod lens to visualize neural activity evoked in the thalamic barreloids by deflection of whiskers in vivo. We stimulated several whiskers together to determine the sensitivity of our approach in differentiating between different barreloid responses. We also carried out stimulation of different whiskers at different times. Finally, we used muscimol in the barrel cortex to silence the corticothalamic inputs while imaging in the thalamus. Our results show that it is possible to obtain functional maps of the sensory periphery in deep brain structures such as the thalamic barreloids. Our approach can be broadly applicable to functional imaging of other core brain structures.
Project description:Electrical stimulation of the thalamus has been widely used to test for the existence of monosynaptic input to cortical neurons, typically with stimulation currents that evoke cortical spikes with high probability. We stimulated the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the thalamus and recorded monosynaptically evoked spikes from layer 4 neurons in visual cortex. We found that with moderate currents, cortical spikes were evoked with low to moderate probability and their occurrence was modulated by ongoing sensory (visual) input. Furthermore, when repeated at 8-12 Hz, electrical stimulation of the thalamic afferents caused such profound inhibition that cortical spiking activity was suppressed, aside from electrically evoked monosynaptic spikes. Visual input to layer 4 cortical cells between electrical stimuli must therefore have derived exclusively from LGN afferents. We used white-noise visual stimuli to make a 2D map of the receptive field of each cortical simple cell during repetitive electrical stimulation in the LGN. The receptive field of electrically evoked monosynaptic spikes (and thus of the thalamic input alone) was significantly elongated. Its primary subfield was comparable to that of the control receptive field, but secondary (flanking) subfields were weaker. These findings extend previous results from intracellular recordings, but also demonstrate the effectiveness of an extracellular method of measuring subthreshold afferent input to cortex.