The laterodorsal tegmental nucleus (LDT) is located in the dorsolateral pontine reticular formation. Cholinergic neurons in the LDT and the adjacent pedunculopontine tegmental nucleus (PPT) are hypothesized to play a critical role in the generation of the electroencephalographic-desynchronized states of wakefulness and rapid eye movement sleep. A quantitative analysis of the cable properties of these cells was undertaken to provide a more detailed understanding of their integrative behavior. The data used in this analysis were the morphologies of intracellularly labeled guinea pig LDT neurons and the voltage responses of these cells to somatic current injection. Initial attempts to model the membrane behavior near resting potential and in the presence of tetrodotoxin (TTX, 1 μM) as purely passive produced fits that did not capture many features of the experimental data. Moreover, the recovered values of membrane conductance or intracellular resistivity were often very far from those reported for other neurons, suggesting that a passive description of cell behavior near rest was not adequate. An active membrane model that included a subthreshold A-type K+ current and/or a hyperpolarization-activated cation current (H-current) then was used to model cell behavior. The voltage traces calculated using this model were better able to reproduce the experimental data, and the cable parameters determined using this methodology were more consistent with those reported for other cells. Additionally, the use of the active model parameter extraction methodology eliminated a problem encountered with the passive model in which parameter sets with widely varying values, sometimes spanning an order of magnitude or more, would produce effectively indistinguishable fits to the data. The use of an active model to directly fit the experimentally measured voltage responses to both long and short current pulses is a novel approach that is of general utility.
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