Thalamocortical (TC) cells in the ventrobasal thalamus make direct excitatory connections with regular-spiking (RS) cells in layer 4 of the somatosensory cortex, but also make disynaptic feedforward inhibitory connections with the RS cells by layer 4 fast-spiking (FS) cells. In this study, we investigated connection rules of the feedforward inhibitory circuit from multiple TC cells to multiple RS cells, at the level of synaptic potentials. Using thalamocortical brain slices of young mice (postnatal days 12-16), we made simultaneous patchclamp recordings from three adjacent cortical cells (two RS cells and one FS cell), combined with minimal stimulation of presumed single TC fibers. We found that nearly all (97%) of TC fibers, which generated excitatory inputs onto RS cells, also generated divergent excitatory inputs onto adjacent FS cells. Some 44% of TC fibers generated divergent excitatory inputs onto adjacent pairs of RS cells. We then combined the triple patch-clamp recording with multisite (two to three) minimal stimulation of single TC fibers and found that 86% of FS cells received convergent inputs from all of the stimulated TC fibers. We also found that 68% of FS cells generated divergent inhibitory inputs onto adjacent pairs of RS cells. The results indicate that spikes in TC cells, which excite RS cells, also excite adjacent FS cells with high fidelity. The results also indicate that FS cells receive convergent excitatory inputs from multiple TC cells and then send divergent inhibitory outputs to multiple RS cells.
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