1. The cellular basis for generation of spindle waves and a slower synchronized oscillation resembling absence seizures was investigated with extracellular and intracellular recording techniques in slices of ferret dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGNd) maintained in vitro. 2. Intracellular recording from LGNd relay cells in vitro revealed that spindle waves occurred once every 3-30 s and were associated with barrages of inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) occurring at a frequency of 6-10 Hz. These IPSPs resulted in the generation of rebound low threshold Ca2+ spikes at 2-4 Hz, owing to the intrinsic propensity of LGNd relay cells to generate oscillatory burst firing in this frequency range. These rebound bursts of action potentials were highly synchronized with local multiunit and single unit activity. 3. The spindle wave-associated IPSPs in LGNd relay cells exhibited a mean reversal potential of -86 mV. This reversal potential was shifted to more depolarized membrane potentials with the intracellular injection of Cl- through the use of KCl-filled microelectrodes. Simultaneous recording from the perigeniculate nucleus (PGN) and LGNd revealed the IPSPs to be synchronous with the occurrence of burst firing in the PGN. Excitation of PGN neurons with local electrical stimulation after pharmacological block of excitatory amino acid transmission resulted in bicuculline-sensitive IPSPs in relay neurons similar in amplitude and time course to those occurring during spindle waves. 4. Application of (-)-bicuculline methiodide resulted in the abolition of spindle wave-associated IPSPs or in the slowing of the rate of rise, an increase in amplitude and a prolongation of these IPSPs; this resulted in a synchronized 2-4 Hz oscillation, in which each relay cell strongly burst on nearly every cycle, thus forming a paroxysmal event. Bath application of the GABAB receptor antagonist 2-OH-saclofen blocked these slowed oscillations, indicating that they are mediated by the activation of GABAB receptors. In contrast, pharmacological antagonism of GABAB receptors did not block the generation of normal spindle waves. 5. These and other results indicate that spindle waves are generated in the ferret LGNd in vitro as a network phenomenon occurring through an interaction between the relay cells of the LGNd and the GABAergic neurons of the PGN. We propose that burst firing in PGN cells hyperpolarizes relay neurons through activation of GABAA receptors. These IPSPs result in rebound burst firing in LGNd cells, which then excite PGN neurons.
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