Shift in the intrinsic excitability of medial prefrontal cortex neurons following training in impulse control and cued-responding tasks

PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23885. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0023885. Epub 2011 Aug 22.


Impulse control is an executive process that allows animals to inhibit their actions until an appropriate time. Previously, we reported that learning a simple response inhibition task increases AMPA currents at excitatory synapses in the prelimbic region of the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC). Here, we examined whether modifications to intrinsic excitability occurred alongside the synaptic changes. To that end, we trained rats to obtain a food reward in a response inhibition task by withhold responding on a lever until they were signaled to respond. We then measured excitability, using whole-cell patch clamp recordings in brain slices, by quantifying action potentials generated by the injection of depolarizing current steps. Training in this task depressed the excitability of layer V pyramidal neurons of the prelimbic, but not infralimbic, region of the mPFC relative to behavioral controls. This decrease in maximum spiking frequency was significantly correlated with performance on the final session of the task. This change in intrinsic excitability may represent a homeostatic mechanism counterbalancing increased excitatory synaptic inputs onto those neurons in trained rats. Interestingly, subjects trained with a cue that predicted imminent reward availability had increased excitability in infralimbic, but not the prelimbic, pyramidal neurons. This dissociation suggests that both prelimbic and infralimbic neurons are involved in directing action, but specialized for different types of information, inhibitory or anticipatory, respectively.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Cues
  • Disruptive, Impulse Control, and Conduct Disorders / therapy*
  • Limbic System / physiology
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Prefrontal Cortex / cytology
  • Prefrontal Cortex / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Reward