Persistent-firing neurons in the entorhinal cortex (EC) and the lateral nucleus of the amygdala (LA) continue to discharge long after the termination of the original, spike-initiating current. An emerging theory proposes that endogenous persistent firing helps support a transient memory system. The present study demonstrated that persistent-firing neurons are also prevalent in rat perirhinal cortex (PR), which lies immediately adjacent to and is reciprocally connected with EC and LA. Several characteristics of persistent-firing neurons in PR were similar to those previously reported in LA and EC. Persistent firing in PR was enabled by the application of carbachol, a nonselective cholinergic agonist, and it was induced by injecting a supra-threshold current or by stimulating supra-threshold excitatory synaptic inputs to the neuron. Once induced, persistent firing lasted for seconds to minutes. Persistent firing could always be terminated by a sufficiently large and prolonged hyperpolarizing current; it was prevented by antagonists of muscarinic cholinergic receptors (mAChRs); and it was blocked by flufenamic acid. The latter has been suggested to inhibit a Ca2+-activated non-specific cation conductance (GCAN) that normally furnishes the sustained depolarization during persistent firing. In many PR neurons the discharge rate during persistent firing was a graded function of depolarizing and/or hyperpolarizing inputs. Persistent firing was not prevented by blocking fast excitatory and inhibitory synaptic transmission, demonstrating that it can be generated endogenously. We suggest that persistentfiring neurons in PR, EC, LA, and certain other brain regions may cooperate in support of a transient-memory system.
Published in final edited form as: Hippocampus. 2012 June ; 22(6): 1392–1404. doi:10.1002/hipo.20975.