A resurgence has taken place in recent years in the use of the extracellularly recorded local field potential (LFP) to investigate neural network activity. To probe monosynaptic thalamic activation of cortical postsynaptic target cells, so called spike-trigger-averaged LFP (stLFP) signatures have been measured. In these experiments, the cortical LFP is measured by multielectrodes covering several cortical lamina and averaged on spontaneous spikes of thalamocortical (TC) cells. Using a well established forward-modeling scheme, we investigated the biophysical origin of this stLFP signature with simultaneous synaptic activation of cortical layer-4 neurons, mimicking the effect of a single afferent spike from a single TC neuron. Constrained by previously measured intracellular responses of the main postsynaptic target cell types and with biologically plausible assumptions regarding the spatial distribution of thalamic synaptic inputs into layer 4, the model predicted characteristic contributions to monosynaptic stLFP signatures both for the regular-spiking (RS) excitatory neurons and the fast-spiking (FS) inhibitory interneurons. In particular, the FS cells generated stLFP signatures of shorter temporal duration than the RS cells. Added together, a sum of the stLFP signatures of these two principal synaptic targets of TC cells were observed to resemble experimentally measured stLFP signatures. Outside the volume targeted by TC afferents, the resulting postsynaptic LFP signals were found to be sharply attenuated. This implies that such stLFP signatures provide a very local measure of TC synaptic activation, and that newly developed inverse current-source density (CSD)-estimation methods are needed for precise assessment of the underlying spatiotemporal CSD profiles.
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