The role of irregular cortical firing in neuronal computation is still debated, and it is unclear how signals carried by fluctuating synaptic potentials are decoded by downstream neurons. We examined in vitro frequency versus current (f-I) relationships of layer 5 (L5) pyramidal cells of the rat medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) using fluctuating stimuli. Studies in the somatosensory cortex show that L5 neurons become insensitive to input fluctuations as input mean increases and that their f-I response becomes linear. In contrast, our results show that mPFC L5 pyramidal neurons retain an increased sensitivity to input fluctuations, whereas their sensitivity to the input mean diminishes to near zero. This implies that the discharge properties of L5 mPFC neurons are well suited to encode input fluctuations rather than input mean in their firing rates, with important consequences for information processing and stability of persistent activity at the network level.
- Frequency-current relationship
- Prefrontal cortex
- Pyramidal neuron
- Slow inactivation
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