Electrical synapses between inhibitory neurons shape the responses of principal neurons to transient inputs in the thalamus: a modeling study

Sci Rep. 2018 May 17;8(1):7763. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-25956-x.


As multimodal sensory information proceeds to the cortex, it is intercepted and processed by the nuclei of the thalamus. The main source of inhibition within thalamus is the reticular nucleus (TRN), which collects signals both from thalamocortical relay neurons and from thalamocortical feedback. Within the reticular nucleus, neurons are densely interconnected by connexin36-based gap junctions, known as electrical synapses. Electrical synapses have been shown to coordinate neuronal rhythms, including thalamocortical spindle rhythms, but their role in shaping or modulating transient activity is less understood. We constructed a four-cell model of thalamic relay and TRN neurons, and used it to investigate the impact of electrical synapses on closely timed inputs delivered to thalamic relay cells. We show that the electrical synapses of the TRN assist cortical discrimination of these inputs through effects of truncation, delay or inhibition of thalamic spike trains. We expect that these are principles whereby electrical synapses play similar roles in regulating the processing of transient activity in excitatory neurons across the brain.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials*
  • Electrical Synapses / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Inhibitory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology*
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology*