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Action of surface polarization on intracellular unit activity in the motor cortex of waking rabbits

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To study mechanisms of functional changes produced by anodal polarization during formation of a “dominant focus” (Rusinov), the effect of a surface polarizing current (3–75 μa, through an electrode 0.3 mm in diameter) on intracellular activity of neurons in the motor cortex of waking rabbits was investigated.

  1. 1.

    During anodal polarization by a current of 9 μa in most of the neurons tested (10 of 15) a decrease in amplitude of excitatory postsynaptic potentials and (or) an increase in amplitude of inhibitory postsynaptic potentials evoked by electrocutaneous stimulation was found. During cathodal polarization the opposite effects were observed. In four of 14 neurons a decrease in amplitude of spontaneous spike discharges was observed during anodal polarization by a current measured in tens of microamperes, and a corresponding increase was found during cathodal polarization. These findings give presumptive evidence of depolarization of the cell bodies during anodal polarization.

  2. 2.

    Anodal polarization can produce an increase in “synaptic noise” and facilitate the appearance of small positive spikes, hypothetically regarded as isolated “fast prepotentials,” both spontaneously and in response to acoustic and photic stimuli.

  3. 3.

    All the effects observed may persist for some time (tens of seconds) after stopping polarization.

  4. 4.

    Photic and acoustic stimuli, according to preliminary data, can evoke cell discharges against a background of anodal polarization with an unchanged synaptic inflow. However, in most cases postsynaptic activity in response to photic and acoustic stimuli is increased during polarization.

It is postulated that the chief factors determining properties of neurons in a “dominant focus” created by polarization are as follows: depolarization of cell bodies directly by the polarizing current and secondarily by the increasing synaptic bombardment; an increase in synaptic action during acoustic and photic stimulation on account of activation of neighboring neurons; and possibly, polarization of presynaptic endings and the more effective involvement of dendrites as a result of depolarization of the zone where “fast prepotentials” are generated.

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Voronin, L.L. Action of surface polarization on intracellular unit activity in the motor cortex of waking rabbits. Neurosci Behav Physiol 2, 691–698 (1968).

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  • Motor Cortex
  • Anodal Polarization
  • Cathodal Polarization
  • Acoustic Stimulus
  • Chief Factor