Interneuron firing precedes sequential activation of neuronal ensembles in hippocampal slices



Neuronal firing sequences that occur during behavioral tasks are precisely reactivated in the neocortex and the hippocampus during rest and sleep. These precise firing sequences are likely to reflect latent memory traces, and their reactivation is believed to be essential for memory consolidation and working memory maintenance. However, how the organized repeating patterns emerge through the coordinated interplay of distinct types of neurons remains unclear. In this study, we monitored ongoing spatiotemporal firing patterns using a multi-neuron calcium imaging technique and examined how the activity of individual neurons is associated with repeated ensembles in hippocampal slice cultures. To determine the cell types of the imaged neurons, we applied an optical synapse mapping method that identifies network connectivity among dozens of neurons. We observed that inhibitory interneurons exhibited an increase in their firing rates prior to the onset of repeating sequences, while the overall activity level of excitatory neurons remained unchanged. A specific repeating sequence emerged preferentially after the firing of a specific interneuron that was located close to the neuron first activated in the sequence. The times of repeating sequences could be more precisely predicted based on the activity patterns of inhibitory cells than excitatory cells. In line with these observations, stimulation of a single interneuron could trigger the emergence of repeating sequences. These findings provide a conceptual framework that interneurons serve as a key regulator of initiating sequential spike activity.