Rhythmic activity in the neocortex varies with different behavioral and pathological states and in some cases may encode sensory information. However, the neural mechanisms of these oscillations are largely unknown. Many pyramidal neurons in layer 5 of the neocortex showed prolonged, 5- to 12-hertz rhythmic firing patterns at threshold. Rhythmic firing was due to intrinsic membrane properties, sodium conductances were essential for rhythmicity, and calcium-dependent conductances strongly modified rhythmicity. Isolated slices of neocortex generated epochs of 4- to 10-hertz synchronized activity when N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-mediated channels were facilitated. Layer 5 was both necessary and sufficient to produce these synchronized oscillations. Thus, synaptic networks of intrinsically rhythmic neurons in layer 5 may generate or promote certain synchronized oscillations of the neocortex.
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