Electrophysiological properties of neocortical neurons in vitro

J Neurophysiol. 1982 Dec;48(6):1302-20. doi: 10.1152/jn.1982.48.6.1302.


1. Intracellular recordings were obtained from neurons of the guinea pig sensorimotor cortical slice maintained in vitro. Under control recording conditions input resistances, time constants, and spiking characteristics of slice neurons were well within the ranges reported by other investigators for neocortical neurons in situ. However, resting potentials (mean of -75 mV) and spike amplitudes (mean of 93.5 mV) were 10-25 mV greater than has been observed in intact preparations. 2. Current-voltage relationships obtained under current clamp revealed a spectrum of membrane-rectifying properties at potentials that were subthreshold for spike generation. Ionic and pharmacologic analyses suggest that subthreshold membrane behavior is dominated by voltage-sensitive, very slowly inactivating conductances to K+ and Na+. 3. Action potentials were predominantly Na+ dependent under normal conditions but when outward K+ currents were reduced pharmacologically, it was possible, in most cells, to evoke a non-Na+-dependent, tetrodotoxin-(TTX) insensitive spike, which was followed by a prominent depolarizing after-potential. Both of these events were blocked by the Ca2+ current antagonists, Co2+ and Mn2+. 4. A small population of neurons generated intrinsic, all-or-none burst potentials when depolarized with current pulses or by synaptic activation. These cells were located at a narrow range of depths comprising layer IV and the more superficial parts of layer V. 5. Spontaneous excitatory synaptic potentials appeared in all neurons. Spontaneous inhibitory events were visible in only about 10% of the cells, and in those cases apparently reversed polarity at a level slightly positive to resting potential. Stimulation of the surface of the slice at low intensities evoked robust and usually concurrent excitatory and inhibitory synaptic potentials. Unitary inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) reversed at levels positive to rest. Stronger stimulation produced a labile, long-duration, hyperpolarizing IPSP with a reversal potential 15-20 mV negative to the resting level. 6. Neocortical neurons in vitro retain the basic membrane and synaptic properties ascribed to them in situ. However, the array of passive and active membrane behavior observed in the slice suggests that cortical neurons may be differentiated by specific functional properties as well as by their extensive morphological diversity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane Permeability
  • Cerebral Cortex / physiology*
  • Electrophysiology
  • Evoked Potentials
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Ions
  • Male
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Synaptic Transmission
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Ions
  • Tetrodotoxin