Heterogeneity of firing properties among rat thalamic reticular nucleus neurons

Sang Hun Lee, G. Govindaiah, Charles L. Cox

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


The thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN) provides inhibitory innervation to most thalamic relay nuclei and receives excitatory innervation from both cortical and thalamic neurons. Ultimately, information transfer through the thalamus to the neocortex is strongly influenced by TRN. In addition, the reciprocal synaptic connectivity between TRN with associated thalamic relay nuclei is critical in generating intrathalamic rhythmic activities that occur during certain arousal states and pathophysiological conditions. Despite evidence suggesting morphological heterogeneity amongst TRN neurons, the heterogeneity of intrinsic properties of TRN neurons has not been systematically examined. One key characteristic of virtually all thalamic neurons is the ability to produce action potentials in two distinct modes: burst and tonic. In this study, we have examined the prevalence of burst discharge within TRN neurons. Our intracellular recordings revealed that TRN neurons can be differentiated by their action potential discharge modes. The majority of neurons in the dorsal TRN (56%) lack burst discharge, and the remaining neurons (35%) show an atypical burst that consists of an initial action potential followed by small amplitude, long duration depolarizations. In contrast, most neurons in ventral TRN (82%) display a stereotypical burst discharge consisting of a transient, high frequency discharge of multiple action potentials. TRN neurons that lack burst discharge typically did not produce low threshold calcium spikes or produced a significantly reduced transient depolarization. Our findings clearly indicate that TRN neurons can be differentiated by differences in their spike discharge properties and these subtypes are not uniformly distributed within TRN. The functional consequences of such intrinsic differences may play an important role in modality-specific thalamocortical information transfer as well as overall circuit level activities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-208
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 1 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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