Impact of network activities on neuronal properties in corticothalamic systems

J Neurophysiol. 2001 Jul;86(1):1-39. doi: 10.1152/jn.2001.86.1.1.


Data from in vivo and in vitro experiments are discussed to emphasize that synaptic activities in neocortex and thalamus have a decisive impact on intrinsic neuronal properties in intact-brain preparations under anesthesia and even more so during natural states of vigilance. Thus the firing patterns of cortical neuronal types are not inflexible but may change with the level of membrane potential and during periods rich in synaptic activity. The incidences of some cortical cell classes (defined by their responses to depolarizing current pulses) are different in isolated cortical slabs in vivo or in slices maintained in vitro compared with the intact cortex of naturally awake animals. Network activities, which include the actions of generalized modulatory systems, have a profound influence on the membrane potential, apparent input resistance, and backpropagation of action potentials. The analysis of various oscillatory types leads to the conclusion that in the intact brain, there are no "pure" rhythms, generated in simple circuits, but complex wave sequences (consisting of different, low- and fast-frequency oscillations) that result from synaptic interactions in corticocortical and corticothalamic neuronal loops under the control of activating systems arising in the brain stem core or forebrain structures. As an illustration, it is shown that the neocortex governs the synchronization of network or intrinsically generated oscillations in the thalamus. The rhythmic recurrence of spike bursts and spike trains fired by thalamic and cortical neurons during states of decreased vigilance may lead to plasticity processes in neocortical neurons. If these phenomena, which may contribute to the consolidation of memory traces, are not constrained by inhibitory processes, they induce seizures in which the neocortex initiates the paroxysms and controls their thalamic reflection. The results indicate that intact-brain preparations are necessary to investigate global brain functions such as behavioral states of vigilance and paroxysmal activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Neural Pathways / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Thalamus / cytology*
  • Thalamus / physiology*