The Journal of Neuroscience
Although inhibitory inputs are often viewed as equal but opposite to excitatory inputs, excitatory inputs may alter the firing of postsynaptic cells more effectively than inhibitory inputs. This is because spike cancellation produced by an inhibitory input requires coincidence in time, whereas an excitatory input can add spikes with less temporal constraint. To test for such potential differences, especially in the context of the function of thalamocortical (TC) relay nuclei, we used a stochastic “integrate-and-fire-or-burst” TC neuron model to quantify the detectability of excitatory and inhibitory drive in the presence and absence of the low-threshold Ca 2+ current, IT, and the hyperpolarization-activated cation conductance, Isag. We find that excitatory inputs are generally superior drivers compared with inhibitory inputs in part because spontaneous activity of a postsynaptic neuron is not required in the case of excitatory drive. Interestingly, the presence of the low-threshold Ca 2+ current, IT in a postsynaptic neuron allows the robust detection of inhibitory drive over a certain range of spontaneous and driven activity, a range that can be extended by the presence of the hyperpolarization-activated cation conductance, Isag. These simulations suggest a possible reinterpretation of the role of inhibitory inputs, such as those to the thalamus.
Smith, Gregory D. and Sherman, S. M., Detectability of Excitatory versus Inhibitory Drive in an Integrate-and-Fire-or-Burst Thalamocortical Relay Neuron Model (2002). The Journal of Neuroscience, 22(23), 10242-10250.