Postnatal development of the electrical activity of rat nigrostriatal dopaminergic neurons

James M. Tepper, Francine Trent, Shoji Nakamura

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70 Scopus citations


Extra- and intracellular recordings were obtained in vivo from dopaminergic nigrostriatal neurons in rat pups ranging in age from postnatal day (PD) 1 to PD28, and in adult rats. Neurons from PD1- rats were active at very low rates in a random pattern, rarely showed bursting activity, and often exhibited long periods of up to several minutes of silence. Spontaneous spikes were of relatively low amplitude and long duration. The mean firing rate increased and became more regular over time, and short bursts consisting of only 2 spikes were observed. By the second postnatal week, the initial segment component of the spontaneous spike resembled that seen in adults, but the somadendritic component was still relatively small, and there was often a very marked temporal delay between the two. Near the end of the second postnatal week, neurons exhibited a transient phase of pacemaker-like activity. Mean firing rates continued to increase with time, as did the incidence and complexity of bursting activity. The spontaneous firing rate, pattern and spike morphology approached adult values by the fourth postnatal week. Antidromic responses from neostriatum were obtained as early as PD1, and consisted of a significantly greater proportion of full initial segment-soma dendritic spikes compared to nigrostriatal neurons from adult rats. There was usually a long delay between the initial segment and somadendritic components of the spike. Mean antidromic latency and mean antidromic threshold did not vary significantly from PD1 - to adults. Axonal conduction velocity reached maximal adult values by PD16- 21. Neostriatal-evoked orthodromic responses consisted principally of a poststimulus inhibition whose duration decreased from PD1 through adulthood. Pure excitatory responses were very rarely observed at any age. Intracellular recordings from PD2, PD3 and PD5 rats revealed striatal-evoked inhibitory postsynaptic potentials in non-dopaminergic nigral neurons with a mean onset latency (9.8 ± 3.8 ms) which did not differ from that previously reported for adult rats.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-33
Number of pages13
JournalDevelopmental Brain Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 1 1990

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology


  • Antidromic response
  • Development
  • Dopaminergic neuron
  • Electrophysiology
  • Neonate
  • Substantia nigra


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