In vitro characterization of cell-level neurophysiological diversity in the rostral nucleus reuniens of adult mice

J Physiol. 2017 Jun 1;595(11):3549-3572. doi: 10.1113/JP273915. Epub 2017 Apr 25.


Key points: The nucleus reuniens (Re), a nucleus of the midline thalamus, is part of a cognitive network including the hippocampus and the medial prefrontal cortex. To date, very few studies have examined the electrophysiological properties of Re neurons at a cellular level. The majority of Re neurons exhibit spontaneous action potential firing at rest. This is independent of classical amino-acid mediated synaptic transmission. When driven by various forms of depolarizing current stimulus, Re neurons display considerable diversity in their firing patterns. As a result of the presence of a low threshold Ca2+ channel, spike output functions are strongly modulated by the prestimulus membrane potential. Finally, we describe a novel form of activity-dependant intrinsic plasticity that eliminates the high-frequency burst firing present in many Re neurons. These results provide a comprehensive summary of the intrinsic electrophysiological properties of Re neurons allowing us to better consider the role of the Re in cognitive processes.

Abstract: The nucleus reuniens (Re) is the largest of the midline thalamic nuclei. We have performed a detailed neurophysiological characterization of neurons in the rostral Re of brain slices prepared from adult male mice. At resting potential (-63.7 ± 0.6 mV), ∼90% of Re neurons fired action potentials, typically continuously at ∼8 Hz. Although Re neurons experience a significant spontaneous barrage of fast, amino-acid-mediate synaptic transmission, this was not predominantly responsible for spontaneous spiking because firing persisted in the presence of glutamate and GABA receptor antagonists. With resting potential preset to -80 mV, -20 pA current injections revealed a mean input resistance of 615 MΩ and a mean time constant of 38 ms. Following cessation of this stimulus, a significant rebound potential was seen that was sometimes sufficiently large to trigger a short burst of very high frequency (100-300 Hz) firing. In most cells, short (2 ms), strong (2 nA) current injections elicited a single spike followed by a large afterdepolarizing potential which, when suprathreshold, generated high-frequency spiking. Similarly, in the majority of cells preset at -80 mV, 500 ms depolarizing current injections to cells led to a brief initial burst of very high-frequency firing, although this was lost when cells were preset at -72 mV. Biophysical and pharmacological experiments indicate a prominent role for T-type Ca2+ channels in the high-frequency bursting of Re neurons. Finally, we describe a novel form of activity-dependent intrinsic plasticity that persistently eliminates the burst firing potential of Re neurons.

Keywords: action potential; brain slices; calcium channel; excitability; plasticity; thalamus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels, T-Type / metabolism
  • Glutamic Acid / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Midline Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Receptors, GABA / metabolism


  • Calcium Channels, T-Type
  • Receptors, GABA
  • Glutamic Acid