Effects of thalamic high-frequency electrical stimulation on whisker-evoked cortical adaptation
Activity in thalamocortical circuits depends strongly on immediate past experience. When the successive activity is attenuated on short timescales, this phenomenon is known as adaptation. Adaptive processes may be effectively initiated by ongoing exposure to sensory stimuli and/or direct electrical stimulation of neural tissue. Ongoing high-frequency electrical stimulation is increasingly employed as a treatment for a variety of neurological disorders. Neural stimulation with similar parameters to therapeutic electrical stimulation may modulate the way in which cortical neurons respond and adapt to sensory stimuli. Here, we studied the effects of high-frequency stimulation of the somatosensory thalamus on the transmission of sensory signals in thalamocortical circuits. We examined how whisker-evoked sensory inputs in layer IV cortical barrels are affected by concurrent 100 Hz thalamic electrical stimulation and how the latter modulates sensory-evoked adaptation. Even in the presence of ongoing thalamic stimulation, sensory transmission in thalamocortical circuits is maintained. However, cortical responses to whisker deflections are reduced in an intensity-dependent fashion and can be nearly abolished with high intensity currents. The electrical stimulation-induced reduction in cortical responsiveness likely reflects engagement of circuit mechanisms that normally produce sensory adaptation.