Norepinephrine released within primary sensory circuits from locus coeruleus afferent fibers can produce a spectrum of modulatory actions on spontaneous or sensory-evoked activity of individual neurons. Within the ventral posterior medial thalamus, membrane currents modulated by norepinephrine have been identified. However, the relationship between the cellular effects of norepinephrine and the impact of norepinephrine release on populations of neurons encoding sensory signals is still open to question. To address this lacuna in understanding the net impact of the noradrenergic system on sensory signal processing, a computational model of the rat trigeminal somatosensory thalamus was generated. The effects of independent manipulation of different cellular actions of norepinephrine on simulated afferent input to the computational model were then examined. The results of these simulations aided in the design of in vivo neural ensemble recording experiments where sensory-driven responses of thalamic neurons were measured before and during locus coeruleus activation in waking animals. Together the simulated and experimental results reveal several key insights regarding the regulation of neural network operation by norepinephrine including: 1) cell-specific modulatory actions of norepinephrine, 2) mechanisms of norepinephrine action that can improve the tuning of the network and increase the signal-to-noise ratio of cellular responses in order to enhance network representation of salient stimulus features and 3) identification of the dynamic range of thalamic neuron function through which norepinephrine operates.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology
- Clinical Neurology
- Developmental Biology