Journal of Neurophysiology vol:78 issue:2 pages:614-627
Using an eye-attached isolated brain stem preparation of a turtle, Pseudemys scripta elegans, in conjunction with whole cell patch techniques, we recorded intracellular activity of accessory optic system neurons in the basal optic nucleus (BON). This technique offered longlasting stable recordings of individual synaptic events. In the reduced preparation (most of the dorsal structures were removed), large spontaneous excitatory synaptic inputs [excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs)] were frequently recorded. Spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic potentials were rarely observed except in few cases. Most EPSPs disappeared after injection of lidocaine into the retina. A few EPSPs of small size remained, suggesting that these EPSPs either were from intracranial sources or may have been miniature spontaneous synaptic potentials from retinal ganglion cell axon terminals. Population EPSPs were synchronously evoked by electrical stimulation of the contralateral optic nerve. Their constant onset latency and their ability to follow short-interval paired stimulation indicated that much of the population EPSP's response was monosynaptic. Visually evoked BON spikes and EPSP inputs to BON showed direction sensitivity when a moving pattern was projected onto the entire contralateral retina. With the use of smaller moving patterns, the receptive field of an individual BON cell was identified. A small spot of light, projected within the receptive field, guided the placement of a bipolar stimulation electrode to activate retinal ganglion cells that provided input to that BON cell. EPSPs evoked by this retinal microstimulation showed features of unitary EPSPs. Those EPSPs had distinct low current thresholds. Recruitment of other inputs was only evident when the stimulation level was increased substantially above threshold. The average size of evoked unitary EPSPs was 7.8 mV, confirming the large size of synaptic inputs of this system relative io nonsynaptic noise. EPSP shape was plotted (rise time vs. amplitude), with the use of either evoked unitary EPSPs or spontaneous EPSPs. Unlike samples of spontaneous EPSPs, data from many unitary EPSPs formed distinct clusters in these scatterplots, indicating that these EPSPs had a unique shape among the whole population of EPSPs. In most BON cells studied, hyperpolarization-activated channels caused a slow depolarization sag that reached a plateau within 0.5-1 s. This property suggests that BON cells may be more complicated than a simple site for convergence of direction-sensitive retinal ganglion cells to form a central retinal slip signal for control of oculomotor reflexes.