The passive cable properties of neurons from layer V of cat neocortex were studied in an in vitro slice preparation using current clamp techniques and a single-microelectrode voltage clamp. Neurons were examined in the presence and absence of several agents that block time- and voltage-dependent conductances. The charging response to an injected current pulse was well fitted by a single exponential in 12 of 17 cells examined. By itself, this result would suggest that most of the neurons are isopotential. However, the existence of a nonisopotential region was demonstrated in all neurons examined using two alternative, independent methods: application of voltage-clamp steps and current impulses. The decay of the capacitive charging transient following a voltage-clamp step reflects charge redistribution solely in the nonisopotential region and had a mean time constant about 17% of the membrane time constant, τ(m). The voltage decay following a current impulse was always fitted by (at least) two exponentials, the shorter of which was about 9% of τ(m). These results suggest that a nonisopotential region exists but is electrotonically short, of relatively low-input conductance, or both, independent of a particular neuron model. Adopting Rall's (23,24) idealized neuron model (isopotential compartment attached to a finite-length uniform cable) resulted in a mean value for the equivalent electrotonic length (L) of the nonisopotential compartment of 0.72 space constants from voltage-clamp data and 1.21 space constants from impulse-response data. A dendrite-to-soma conductance ratio (p) of 2-4 was obtained from either procedure. There were no significant differences in the cable parameters between normal cells and those where conductance-blocking agents were present. A specific membrane resistance [R(m)] ranging from 2,300 to 11,700 Ω · cm2 was estimated by assuming values of specific membrane capacitance reported in the literature. We conclude that large layer V neocortical neurons in vitro are electrotonically compact in the voltage range near resting potential and in the absence of significant tonic synaptic input. In this respect, their electrotonic cable properties resemble those of other mammalian neurons in vitro.
ASJC Scopus subject areas