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Rapid homeostasis by disinhibition during whisker map plasticity.


How homeostatic processes contribute to map plasticity and stability in sensory cortex is not well-understood. Classically, sensory deprivation first drives rapid Hebbian weakening of spiking responses to deprived inputs, which is followed days later by a slow homeostatic increase in spiking responses mediated by excitatory synaptic scaling. Recently, more rapid homeostasis by inhibitory circuit plasticity has been discovered in visual cortex, but whether this process occurs in other brain areas is not known. We tested for rapid homeostasis in layer 2/3 (L2/3) of rodent somatosensory cortex, where D-row whisker deprivation drives Hebbian weakening of whisker-evoked spiking responses after an unexplained initial delay, but no homeostasis of deprived whisker responses is known. We hypothesized that the delay reflects rapid homeostasis through disinhibition, which masks the onset of Hebbian weakening of L2/3 excitatory input. We found that deprivation (3 d) transiently increased whisker-evoked spiking responses in L2/3 single units before classical Hebbian weakening (≥5 d), whereas whisker-evoked synaptic input was reduced during both periods. This finding suggests a transient homeostatic increase in L2/3 excitability. In whole-cell recordings from L2/3 neurons in vivo, brief deprivation decreased whisker-evoked inhibition more than excitation and increased the excitation-inhibition ratio. In contrast, synaptic scaling and increased intrinsic excitability were absent. Thus, disinhibition is a rapid homeostatic plasticity mechanism in rodent somatosensory cortex that transiently maintains whisker-evoked spiking in L2/3, despite the onset of Hebbian weakening of excitatory input.

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