Historical reflections on the afterhyperpolarization--firing rate relation of vertebrate spinal neurons

J Comp Physiol A Neuroethol Sens Neural Behav Physiol. 2007 Feb;193(2):145-58. doi: 10.1007/s00359-006-0198-2. Epub 2006 Dec 28.


In mammalian spinal motoneurons (MNs), the slow component of the afterhyperpolarization (AHP) that follows the spike of each action potential is a major but not the sole determinant of the cells' firing rate. In this brief historical review, we emphasize four points about the AHP-firing rate relation. (1) There is a relatively sparse literature across vertebrates that directly addresses this topic. (2) After the advent of intracellular recording in the early 1950s, there was evidence from mammals to the contrary of an idea that subsequently became prevalent: that the high-firing rates attainable by spinal interneurons (INs) and low-threshold MNs was attributable to their small AHP at rheobase. (3) Further work is needed to determine whether our present findings on the AHP-firing rate relation of turtle cells generalize to the spinal neurons of other vertebrate species. (4) Relevant to point 3, substantial in vivo and in vitro work is potentially available in raw data used in reports on several mammalian and non-mammalian vertebrates. In summary, the factors in addition to the slow AHP that help determine spinal INs and MN firing rate deserve further evaluation across vertebrates, with relevant data already potentially available in several laboratories.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Electrophysiology / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Motor Neurons / physiology*
  • Neurophysiology / history*
  • Spinal Cord / cytology
  • Spinal Cord / physiology*