1. The afterhyperpolarization (AHP) that follows action potentials was studied in CA1 hippocampal pyramidal cells from classically conditioned and control rabbits. Measurements of the AHP were obtained with intracellular recordings from CA1 cells within hippocampal slices. 2. The AHP of rabbit CA1 pyramidal cells was found to be accompanied by a conductance increase. The AHP was reduced by bath applications of the calcium blockers, cadmium and cobalt, by bath application of the cholinergic agonist, carbamylcholine chloride, and intracellular injection of the calcium chelator, ethylene glycol-bis(B-aminoethyl ether)-N,N,N',N'-tetraacetic acid (EGTA). 3. The AHP was markedly reduced in cells from rabbits that were well-trained with the nictitating membrane conditioning procedure, as compared with cells from pseudoconditioned or naive control animals. The difference in AHP amplitudes between conditioned and control groups increased as the number of spikes elicited by the stimulation pulse increased from one to four. Both the duration (measured as the time constant of AHP decay) and amplitude of the AHP were reduced in cells from conditioned animals. 4. The reduced AHP in cells from conditioned animals remained reduced in a medium that contained 0.5 μM tetrodotoxin (TTX) and 5.0 mM tetraethylammonium chloride (TEA); the AHP following calcium spikes was measured under these conditions. Since this medium eliminated synaptic transmission elicited by Schaeffer collateral stimulation, the AHP reduction in pyramidal cells from conditioned animals was not due to a modification in synaptic properties. There were no significant differences in the mean voltage thresholds, amplitudes, or durations of calcium spikes between cells from animals in the three groups. Thus the AHP reduction appears to be due to a modification of a Ca2+-dependent K+ conductance and was not due to a secondary effect of reductions in calcium conductances underlying the spike. 5. In medium containing TTX and TEA, the amount of injected current required to elicit a calcium spike (current threshold) was significantly greater in cells from conditioned animals than in cells from control animals. This increase in current threshold persisted in 4-aminopyridine (4-AP)-containing medium and so cannot be attributed entirely to conditioning-specific increases in the A-current. 6. The conditioning-specific AHP reduction resulted in increased excitability in cells from conditioned animals versus pseudoconditioned control animals. Cells from conditioned animals fired more spikes to trains of 100-ms depolarizing current pulses that did cells from controls.
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