Histamine facilitates in vivo thalamocortical long-term potentiation in the mature visual cortex of anesthetized rats


Dr H. C. Dringenberg, 1Department of Psychology, as above.
E-mail: dringenb@queensu.ca


Recent evidence indicates that the mature central visual system retains a higher degree of plasticity than traditionally assumed. However, little is known regarding the neuromodulatory factors that influence plasticity in the adult primary visual cortex (V1). We investigated the role of histamine, one of the neuromodulators that densely innervate all neocortical fields, in modulating plasticity of V1 by examining thalamocortical long-term potentiation (LTP). Theta-burst stimulation of the lateral geniculate nucleus of urethane-anesthetized rats resulted in potentiation of the field postsynaptic potential recorded in the superficial layers of V1. Histamine (0.01–10 mm), applied locally in V1 by reverse microdialysis, produced a clear, dose-dependent enhancement of LTP. In addition, histamine also allowed a weak theta-burst induction protocol, that by itself failed to induce significant synaptic potentiation, to produce stable LTP. The effect of histamine to facilitate LTP was largely resistant to blockade of H1[chlorpheniramine, 5 and 10 mg/kg, intraperitoneal (i.p.)] or H2 receptors (cimetidine, 10 mg/kg, zolantidine, 5 mg/kg, i.p.). However, arcaine sulfate salt (10 mg/kg, i.p.), a blocker of the polyamine binding site of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, completely antagonized the LTP amplification induced by histamine, suggesting that it acts via a direct modulation of NMDA receptors, rather than histaminergic receptor activation. The present experiments provide the first demonstration of a histaminergic influence on neocortical synaptic plasticity in vivo and show that cortical histaminergic activation acts to lower the induction threshold and increase the degree of plasticity in the mature thalamocortical visual system.