The intrinsic processes contributing to the three discharge patterns of proprioceptive cuneate neurons described by Surmeier and Towe were studied experimentally and with computer simulation. Examination of the alterations in excitability produced by antidromic activation suggested that a prolonged inhibition was a concomitant of discharge in proprioceptive cuneate neurons. Computer simulation was performed to test the possible roles of inhibitory hyperpolarizing processes in governing the observed discharge patterns. These simulations used two constant threshold models. The simplest model linearly integrated synaptic potentials until the spike threshold was reached. After the discharge, synaptic potentials that preceded the spike were ignored (i.e., the model was 'reset'). The second model was similar to the first except that following a spike two hyperpolarizing processes were activated and preceding events continued to play a role in membrane potential. Simulation of class A spike trains that possessed positive correlations between nearby intervals was successful only with a resetting model. This suggested that class A neurons have fast, no-memory postspike conductance changes, which effectively shunt synaptic charge. Simulation of class B spike trains was possible with the nonresetting model. At least two periodic inputs, which evoked brief, relatively large EPSPs, were required. In addition, a prominent, fast, spike-dependent hyperpolarization and a small-amplitude, slow hyperpolarization were required. Simulation of class C spike trains was also possible with the nonresetting model. Several periodic inputs were required; one input had to evoke a slow suprathreshold EPSP. In contrast to class B simulations, class C spike train simulation required that a large-amplitude, slow hyperpolarization, as well as a brief hyperpolarization, following spike initiation. The results of class B and C simulations suggested that these two groups differed primarily in the amplitude of a slow, hyperpolarizing, postspike conductance. Some role may also be played by the time course of the driving EPSPs.
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