, Volume 57, Issue 1, pp 177-190

Morphological and electrophysiological characteristics of pyramidal tract neurons in the rat

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Responses evoked in neurons of rat sensorimotor cortex upon stimulation of the pyramidal tract and ipsilateral cerebral peduncle were analysed using intracellular recording. Neurons responding antidromically to pyramidal tract stimulation (PT cells) and neurons failing to respond anti-dromically but exhibiting orthodromic responses were both stained by intracellular injection of horse-radish peroxidase (HRP). Layer V pyramidal neurons, including those responding antidromically, exhibited prominent long lasting membrane hyperpolarizations and inhibitions of action potentials following pyramidal tract or cerebral peduncle stimulation. Upon passage of polarizing intracellular current two components were identified within the hyperpolarizing potential. A short duration initial component readily reversed with hyperpolarizing current. Frequently this earlier component over-lapped a period of early excitation consisting of action potentials arising from recurrent EPSPs or large slow depolarizing potentials (SDPs). The second, much longer duration hyperpolarizing component did not reverse with passage of hyperpolarizing current and was often followed by a rebound period of depolarization and action potential generation. Both the excitatory and the inhibitory portions of these responses could be demonstrated in animals with acute thalamic transections severing the ascending lemniscal pathway to cortex. Following intracellular staining with HRP, two types of PT cells were identified by their different intracortical axonal arborizations. Most of the injected neurons had local axonal fields extending widely in layers V and VI, but with few or no collaterals extending radially toward the more superficial layers. A second type of PT cell had axon collaterals limited to a narrow zone around the dendritic field but extending radially as far as layer I. Cells of both types were observed to send axon collaterals into neostriatum. Both types of neurons exhibited morphological and physiological characteristics of slow PT cells, and we could find no cells comparable to the fast conducting PT cells observed in other species.