Dynamics of cortical dendritic membrane potential and spikes in freely behaving rats
Neural activity in vivo is primarily measured using extracellular somatic spikes, which provide limited information about neural computation. Hence, it is necessary to record from neuronal dendrites, which can generate dendritic action potentials (DAPs) in vitro, which can profoundly influence neural computation and plasticity. We measured neocortical sub- and suprathreshold dendritic membrane potential (DMP) from putative distal-most dendrites using tetrodes in freely behaving rats over multiple days with a high degree of stability and submillisecond temporal resolution. DAP firing rates were several-fold larger than somatic rates. DAP rates were also modulated by subthreshold DMP fluctuations, which were far larger than DAP amplitude, indicating hybrid, analog-digital coding in the dendrites. Parietal DAP and DMP exhibited egocentric spatial maps comparable to pyramidal neurons. These results have important implications for neural coding and plasticity.