Thalamocortical conduction times and stimulus-evoked responses in the rat whisker-to-barrel system.
Simons DJ., Carvell GE., Kyriazi HT., Bruno RM.
Studies of the rodent whisker system indicate that somatosensory cortical circuitry operates at a millisecond timescale to transform sensory afferent signals from the thalamus. We measured axon conduction times and whisker-evoked responses of 48 thalamocortical (TC) neurons in the rat whisker-to-barrel pathway. Conduction times were derived from spike-triggered averages of local field potentials evoked in layer 4 cortical whisker-related barrels by the spontaneous firing of individual topographically aligned neurons in the ventral posterior medial thalamus. Conduction times varied fourfold, from 0.31 to 1.34 ms, and faster conducting TC neurons responded earlier and more robustly to controlled whisker deflections. Early arrival of highly responsive TC inputs, thought to contact inhibitory barrel neurons preferentially, could prime the cortical network, rendering it more selective for later-arriving signals.