Influence of developmental nicotine exposure on spike-timing precision and reliability in hypoglossal motoneurons

Gregory L. Powell, Richard B. Levine, Amanda M. Frazier, Ralph F. Fregosi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Smoothly graded muscle contractions depend in part on the precision and reliability of motoneuron action potential generation. Whether or not a motoneuron generates spikes precisely and reliably depends on both its intrinsic membrane properties and the nature of the synaptic input that it receives. Factors that perturb neuronal intrinsic properties and/or synaptic drive may compromise the temporal precision and the reliability of action potential generation. We have previously shown that developmental nicotine exposure (DNE) alters intrinsic properties and synaptic transmission in hypoglossal motoneurons (XIIMNs). Here we show that the effects of DNE also include alterations in spike-timing precision and reliability, and spike-frequency adaptation, in response to sinusoidal current injection. Current-clamp experiments in brainstem slices from neonatal rats show that DNE lowers the threshold for spike generation but increases the variability of spiketiming mechanisms. DNE is also associated with an increase in spike-frequency adaptation and reductions in both peak and steadystate firing rate in response to brief, square wave current injections. Taken together, our data indicate that DNE causes significant alterations in the input-output efficiency of XIIMNs. These alterations may play a role in the increased frequency of obstructive apneas and altered suckling strength and coordination observed in nicotine-exposed neonatal humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1862-1872
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of neurophysiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Mar 15 2015


  • Development
  • Intrinsic properties
  • Motoneuron
  • Nicotine
  • Spike-timing precision
  • Spike-timing reliability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Physiology


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