Spontaneous low threshold spike bursting in awake humans is different in different lateral thalamic nuclei

S. Ohara, A. Taghva, J. H. Kim, F. A. Lenz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Spontaneous action potential bursts associated with low threshold calcium spikes (LTS) occur in multiple human lateral thalamic nuclei, each with different physiologic characteristics. We now test the hypothesis that different patterns of spontaneous LTS bursting occur in these nuclei during awake surgery in patients with essential tremor and the arm at rest. This protocol was chosen to minimize the effect of the patient's disease upon thalamic activity which is a potential confound in a surgical study of this type. Neuronal activity was studied in the human thalamic nuclei receiving somatic sensory input (Vc, ventral caudal), input from the deep cerebellar nuclei (Vim, ventral intermediate), or input from the pallidum (Vo, ventral oral). In each nucleus the burst rates were significantly greater than zero. Burst rates were higher in Vc than in Vim, while firing rates were lower. These findings suggest that neurons in Vc are hyperpolarized and have more frequent inhibitory events. Pre-burst inter-spike intervals (ISIs) were significantly longer in Vc, but were significantly shorter when corrected for the average ISIs between bursts (burst rate/inverse of the primary event rate). These results suggest that inhibitory events in Vc are of lower magnitude relative to a hyperpolarized resting membrane potential. Studies in many species demonstrate that input from the pallidum to the thalamus is inhibitory, suggesting that input to Vo is predominantly inhibitory. However, neurons in Vo have neither slower firing rates nor more frequent LTS bursts. Previous studies have found that spontaneous LTS is similar between classes of neurons within Vc, as defined by their response to thermal and painful stimuli. The differences in spontaneous LTS between human nuclei but not between functional classes within a nucleus may be a basic organizing principle of thalamic inhibitory circuitry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-288
Number of pages8
JournalExperimental Brain Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2007


  • Action potential burst
  • Essential tremor
  • Human thalamus
  • IPSP
  • Low threshold spike
  • Principal somatic sensory nucleus
  • Ventral lateral nucleus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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