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Open Access Research

Barrel cortical neurons and astrocytes coordinately respond to an increased whisker stimulus frequency

Jun Zhao12, Dangui Wang13 and Jin-Hui Wang123*

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

2 Graduate School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

3 College of Life Science, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, Anhui 230026, China

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Molecular Brain 2012, 5:12  doi:10.1186/1756-6606-5-12

Published: 26 April 2012

Abstract

Background

Nerve cells program the brain codes to manage well-organized cognitions and behaviors. It remains unclear how a population of neurons and astrocytes work coordinately to encode their spatial and temporal activity patterns in response to frequency and intensity signals from sensory inputs.

Results

With two-photon imaging and electrophysiology to record cellular functions in the barrel cortex in vivo, we analyzed the activity patterns of neurons and astrocytes in response to whisker stimuli with increasing frequency, an environmental stimulus pattern that rodents experience in the accelerated motion. Compared to the resting state, whisker stimulation caused barrel neurons and astrocytes to be activated more synchronously. An increased stimulus frequency up-regulated the activity strength of neurons and astrocytes as well as coordinated their interaction. The coordination among the barrel neurons and astrocytes was fulfilled by increasing their functional connections.

Conclusions

Our study reveals that the nerve cells in the barrel cortex encode frequency messages in whisker tactile inputs through setting their activity coordination.

Keywords:
Neuron; Astrocyte; Barrel cortex; Whisker and two-photon cellular imaging