Regulation of Persistent Activity by Background Inhibition in an In Vitro Model of a Cortical Microcircuit

Jean Marc Fellous, Terrence J. Sejnowski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


We combined in vitro intracellular recording from prefrontal cortical neurons with simulated synaptic activity of a layer 5 prefrontal microcircuit using a dynamic clamp. During simulated in vivo background conditions, the cell responded to a brief depolarization with a sequence of spikes that outlasted the depolarization, mimicking the activity of a cell recorded during the delay period of a working memory task in the behaving monkey. The onset of sustained activity depended on the number of action potentials elicited by the cue-like depolarization. Too few spikes failed to provide enough NMDA drive to elicit sustained reverberations; too many spikes activated a slow intrinsic hyperpolarization current that prevented spiking; an intermediate number of spikes produced sustained activity. When high dopamine levels were simulated by depolarizing the cell and by increasing the amount of NMDA current, the cell exhibited spontaneous 'up-states' that terminated by the activation of a slow a intrinsic hyperpolarizing current. The firing rate during the delay period could be effectively modulated by the standard deviation of the inhibitory background synaptic noise without significant changes in the background firing rate before cue onset. These results suggest that the balance between fast feedback inhibition and slower AMPA and NMDA feedback excitation is critical in initiating persistent activity and that the maintenance of persistent activity may be regulated by the amount of correlated background inhibition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1232-1241
Number of pages10
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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