Subthreshold Oscillations Generated by TTX-sensitive Sodium Currents in Dorsal Cochlear Nucleus Pyramidal Cells

Exp Brain Res. 2003 Dec;153(4):443-51. doi: 10.1007/s00221-003-1639-6. Epub 2003 Sep 24.


During intracellular recordings in rodent brainstem slice preparations, dorsal cochlear nucleus (DCN) pyramidal cells (PCs) exhibit characteristic discharge patterns to depolarizing current injection that depend on the membrane potential from which the responses are evoked. When depolarized from hyperpolarized potentials, PCs can respond with a short-latency action potential followed by a long silent interval (pauser) or a train of action potentials with a long latency (buildup). During the silent intervals in a pauser or a buildup response, the membrane potential slowly depolarizes towards spike threshold, often exhibiting distinct voltage oscillations of 1-2 mV before the first spike. The subthreshold voltage oscillations were investigated using whole cell recordings from DCN PCs in rat pup (P10-14) brainstem slices. The oscillations were unaffected by excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter antagonists, and were not temporally locked to the onset of the depolarization. The oscillations typically became larger as spike threshold was approached, and had a characteristic frequency between 40 and 100 Hz. In the presence of tetrodotoxin (TTX, 500 nM), the oscillations were significantly suppressed, and could not be evoked at any voltage below or above spike threshold. The oscillations were not blocked by phenytoin or Cd2+, but they were affected by prior activity in the neuron for approximately 1 s. We conclude that voltage-gated Na+ channels are required to generate membrane oscillations during the buildup phase. We suggest that the subthreshold oscillations play a role in controlling spike timing in PCs when the membrane potential slowly approaches, or hovers near, spike threshold.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology*
  • Biological Clocks / drug effects
  • Biological Clocks / physiology*
  • Cadmium / pharmacology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / cytology
  • Cochlear Nucleus / drug effects
  • Cochlear Nucleus / physiology*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Phenytoin / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Sodium Channel Blockers / pharmacology
  • Sodium Channels / drug effects
  • Sodium Channels / physiology*
  • Synaptic Transmission / drug effects
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Sodium Channel Blockers
  • Sodium Channels
  • Cadmium
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • Phenytoin