Synaptic and intrinsic control of membrane excitability of neostriatal neurons. I. An in vivo analysis

P. Calabresi, N. B. Mercuri, A. Stefani, G. Bernardi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The relationship between membrane properties of neostriatal neurons and spontaneous and evoked synaptic potentials was studied with the use of intracellular recordings from anesthetized rats. Most of these neurons showed regular or irregular spontaneous depolarizing potentials that only in a few cases triggered action potentials at resting level. The stimulation of the ipsilateral substantia nigra or of the sensorimotor cortex produced a relatively fast depolarizing postsynaptic potential (EPSP). In some cells this potential was followed by an inhibitory period that appeared as an hyperpolarization when the cell was depolarized from the resting level (inhibitory postsynaptic potential, IPSP). A late and long-lasting depolarization (LD) followed the EPSP or the EPSP-IPSP sequence. Repetitive discharge with little adaptation was observed during direct depolarization. Most of the neurons tested for current-voltage (I-V) relationship showed nonlinearity of the input resistance in the hyperpolarizing direction. Spontaneous and evoked EPSPs were decreased in their amplitude and duration when the membrane potential was held at levels more hyperpolarized than -85 mV because of the strong rectification at these levels of hyperpolarization. Local microiontophoretic application of bicuculline (BIC) or systemic administration of BIC and pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) produced a reduction of the IPSPs. The reduction of the inhibitory transmission caused a strong increase of the LD. The current-evoked firing pattern was not greatly altered. The intracellular application of cesium increased the amplitude and the duration of the spontaneous depolarizations that triggered bursts of action potentials under this condition. Spikes were broadened and the rectification in the hyperpolarization direction was reduced. Iontophoretically applied cadmium strongly depressed the amplitude of the spontaneous and evoked postsynaptic potentials. During cadmium application, nigral stimulation produced constant latency, all-or-none spikes in the absence of any synaptic potential. Repetitive stimulation of the ipsilateral substantia nigra by electrical shocks (5 Hz, 25 s) produced a progressive and reversible decrease of the spontaneous depolarizing potentials (SDPs) and a decrease of the firing rate. In the same cells, when the train of stimulation was delivered in the ipsilateral cortex, a membrane depolarization coupled with an increase of the firing rate was observed. We conclude that although synaptic circuits mediate a phasic inhibition in neostriatum, the low level of spontaneous firing of most neostriatal neurons is mainly because of the effects that membrane properties exert on the spontaneous and the evoked synaptic depolarizations in the striatum. The single stimulations of the substantia nigra and of the cerebral cortex produce a sequence of fast synaptic events (EPSP-IPSP-LD), whereas the repetitive activation of nigral and cortical afferents results, respectively, in long-lasting inhibition and excitation of neostriatal neurons.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-662
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neurophysiology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuroscience(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Synaptic and intrinsic control of membrane excitability of neostriatal neurons. I. An in vivo analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this