Electrical resonance in the θ frequency range in olfactory amygdala neurons

PLoS One. 2014 Jan 21;9(1):e85826. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085826. eCollection 2014.


The cortical amygdala receives direct olfactory inputs and is thought to participate in processing and learning of biologically relevant olfactory cues. As for other brain structures implicated in learning, the principal neurons of the anterior cortical nucleus (ACo) exhibit intrinsic subthreshold membrane potential oscillations in the θ-frequency range. Here we show that nearly 50% of ACo layer II neurons also display electrical resonance, consisting of selective responsiveness to stimuli of a preferential frequency (2-6 Hz). Their impedance profile resembles an electrical band-pass filter with a peak at the preferred frequency, in contrast to the low-pass filter properties of other neurons. Most ACo resonant neurons displayed frequency preference along the whole subthreshold voltage range. We used pharmacological tools to identify the voltage-dependent conductances implicated in resonance. A hyperpolarization-activated cationic current depending on HCN channels underlies resonance at resting and hyperpolarized potentials; notably, this current also participates in resonance at depolarized subthreshold voltages. KV7/KCNQ K+ channels also contribute to resonant behavior at depolarized potentials, but not in all resonant cells. Moreover, resonance was strongly attenuated after blockade of voltage-dependent persistent Na+ channels, suggesting an amplifying role. Remarkably, resonant neurons presented a higher firing probability for stimuli of the preferred frequency. To fully understand the mechanisms underlying resonance in these neurons, we developed a comprehensive conductance-based model including the aforementioned and leak conductances, as well as Hodgkin and Huxley-type channels. The model reproduces the resonant impedance profile and our pharmacological results, allowing a quantitative evaluation of the contribution of each conductance to resonance. It also replicates selective spiking at the resonant frequency and allows a prediction of the temperature-dependent shift in resonance frequency. Our results provide a complete characterization of the resonant behavior of olfactory amygdala neurons and shed light on a putative mechanism for network activity coordination in the intact brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amygdala / cytology*
  • Animals
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electrophysiological Phenomena*
  • Ion Channel Gating
  • Ions
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Membrane Potentials / physiology
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Olfactory Bulb / cytology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sodium Channels / metabolism
  • Theta Rhythm / physiology*


  • Ions
  • Sodium Channels

Grant support

Supported by Ministerio de Planificación Nacional, Iniciativa Científica Milenio MIDEPLAN ICM-P05-001-F (JB, MS), Fondo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (FONDECYT) 1080630 (MS), 1100682 (JB), Doctoral Fellowship and Thesis grant by the Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONICYT) (JV, MP). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.