Low-frequency thalamocortical oscillations that underlie drowsiness and slow-wave sleep depend on rhythmic inhibition of relay cells by neurons in the reticular nucleus (RTN) under the influence of corticothalamic fibers that branch to innervate RTN neurons and relay neurons. To generate oscillations, input to RTN predictably should be stronger so disynaptic inhibition of relay cells overcomes direct corticothalamic excitation. Amplitudes of excitatory postsynaptic conductances (EPSCs) evoked in RTN neurons by minimal stimulation of corticothalamic fibers were 2.4 times larger than in relay neurons, and quantal size of RTN EPSCs was 2.6 times greater. GluR4-receptor subunits labeled at corticothalamic synapses on RTN neurons outnumbered those on relay cells by 3.7 times, providing a basis for differences in synaptic strength.
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