He, JF (reprint author), Hong Kong Polytech Univ, Dept Rehabil Sci, Kowloon, Hong Kong, Peoples R China,Jufang.He@inet.polyu.edu.hk
Slow oscillations at frequencies <1 Hz manifest in many brain regions as discrete transitions between a depolarized up state and a hyperpolarized down state of the neuronal membrane potential. Although up and down states are known to differentially affect sensory-evoked responses, whether and how they are modulated by sensory stimuli are not well understood. In the present study, intracellular recording in anesthetized guinea pigs showed that membrane potentials of nonlemniscal auditory thalamic neurons exhibited spontaneous up/down transitions at random intervals in the range of 2-30 s, which could be entrained to a regular interval by repetitive sound stimuli. After termination of the entraining stimulation (ES), regular up/down transitions persisted for several cycles at the ES interval. Furthermore, the efficacy of weak sound stimuli in triggering the up-to-down transition was potentiated specifically at the ES interval for at least 10 min. Extracellular recordings in the auditory thalamus of unanesthetized guinea pigs also showed entrainment of slow oscillations by rhythmic sound stimuli during slow wave sleep. These results demonstrate a novel form of network plasticity, which could help to retain the information of stimulus interval on the order of seconds.