Influence of the hippocampus on interneurons of the rat prefrontal cortex

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Abstract

The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex (PFC), two structures implicated in learning and memory processes, are linked by a direct hippocampo-prefrontal pathway. It has been shown that PFC pyramidal cells receive monosynaptic excitatory inputs from the hippocampus and, in this study, we sought to determine the influence of the hippocampus on PFC interneurons in anesthetized rats. Extracellular recordings were coupled to juxtacellular injections of neurobiotin or biotinylated dextran amine to morphologically differentiate interneurons from pyramidal cells. In all cases, the action potentials of labeled interneurons were of shorter duration (< 0.70 ms) than those of identified pyramidal cells (> 0.70 ms). Single pulse stimulation of the hippocampal CA1/subiculum region induced an excitatory response in 70% of recorded interneurons in the prelimbic and medial-orbital areas of the PFC. In contrast to the one to two action potentials generated by pyramidal cells, an important group of interneurons fired a burst of action potentials in response to hippocampal stimulation. A large proportion of these excitatory responses was probably monosynaptic as their latency is consistent with the conduction time of the hippocampo-prefrontal pathway. In addition, when both a pyramidal cell and an interneuron were simultaneously recorded and both responded to stimulation, the interneuron consistently fired before the pyramidal cell. In conclusion, the hippocampus exerts a direct excitatory influence on PFC interneurons and is thus capable of feedforward inhibition of pyramidal cells. Hippocampal output is spatially and temporally focalized via this inhibitory process and consequently could facilitate the synchronization of a specific subset of PFC neurons with hippocampal activity.

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