• excitatory postsynaptic current;
  • feed-forward inhibition;
  • inhibitory postsynaptic current;
  • network connectivity;
  • rat;
  • timing


A fundamental property of small neuronal ensembles is their ability to be selectively activated by distinct stimuli. One cellular mechanism by which neurons achieve this input selectivity is by modulating the temporal dynamics of excitation and inhibition. We explored the interplay of excitation and inhibition in synapses between pyramidal neurons of cornu ammonis field 3 of the hippocampal formation (CA3) in cultured rat hippocampal slices, where activation of a single excitatory cell can readily recruit local interneurons. Simultaneous whole-cell recordings from pairs of CA3 pyramidal neurons revealed that the strength of connections was neither uniform nor balanced. Rather, stimulation of presynaptic neurons elicited distinct combinations of excitatory postsynaptic current–inhibitory postsynaptic current (EPSC–IPSC) amplitudes in the postsynaptic neurons. EPSC–IPSC sequences with small EPSCs had large IPSCs and sequences that contained large EPSCs had small IPSCs. In addition to differences in the amplitudes of the responses, the kinetics of the EPSCs were also different, creating distinct temporal dynamics of excitation and inhibition. Weaker EPSCs had significantly slower kinetics and were efficiently occluded by IPSCs, thereby further limiting their contribution to depolarizing the postsynaptic membrane. Our data suggest that hippocampal pyramidal cells may use an imbalance between excitation and inhibition as a filter to enhance selectivity toward preferential excitatory connections.