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Millisecond timescale disinhibition mediates fast information transmission through an avian basal ganglia loop

TitleMillisecond timescale disinhibition mediates fast information transmission through an avian basal ganglia loop
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsLeblois A, Bodor AL, Person AL, Perkel DJ
JournalJ Neurosci
Date Published2009
ISBN Number1529-2401 (Electronic)0270-6474 (Linking)
KeywordsAction Potentials, Animals, Basal Ganglia/*physiology, Cerebral Cortex/physiology, Electric Stimulation, Male, Finches, Models, Neurological, Neural Inhibition/*physiology, Neural Pathways/physiology, Neurons/*physiology, Probability, Receptors, Glutamate/metabolism, Synaptic Transmission/*physiology, Thalamus/physiology, Universities

Avian song learning shares striking similarities with human speech acquisition and requires a basal ganglia (BG)-thalamo-cortical circuit. Information processing and transmission speed in the BG is thought to be limited by synaptic architecture of two serial inhibitory connections. Propagation speed may be critical in the avian BG circuit given the temporally precise control of musculature during vocalization. We used electrical stimulation of the cortical inputs to the BG to study, with fine time resolution, the functional connectivity within this network. We found that neurons in thalamic and cortical nuclei that are not directly connected with the stimulated area can respond to the stimulation with extremely short latencies. Through pharmacological manipulations, we trace this property back to the BG and show that the cortical stimulation triggers fast disinhibition of the thalamic neurons. Surprisingly, feedforward inhibition mediated by striatal inhibitory neurons onto BG output neurons sometimes precedes the monosynaptic excitatory drive from cortical afferents. The fast feedforward inhibition lengthens a single interspike interval in BG output neurons by just a few milliseconds. This short delay is sufficient to drive a strong, brief increase in firing probability in the target thalamic neurons, evoking short-latency responses. By blocking glutamate receptors in vivo, we show that thalamic responses do not appear to rely on excitatory drive, and we show in a theoretical model that they could be mediated by postinhibitory rebound properties. Such fast signaling through disinhibition and rebound may be a crucial specialization for learning of rapid and temporally precise motor acts such as vocal communication.