Alan D. Dorval and John A. White. Channel Noise is Essential for Perithreshold Oscillations in Entorhinal Stellate Neurons (2005) J Neurosci, 25 (43): 10025-10028.

Previous experimental and computational work (for review, see White et al., 2000Go) has suggested that channel noise, generated by the stochastic flicker of voltage-gated ion channels, can be a major contributor to electrical membrane noise in neurons. In spiny stellate neurons of the entorhinal cortex, we remove the primary source of channel noise by pharmacologically blocking the native persistent Na+ conductance. Via the dynamic-clamp technique (Robinson and Kawai, 1993Go; Sharp et al., 1993Go), we then introduce virtual persistent Na+ channels into the membranes of the stellate neurons. By altering the mathematical properties of these virtual “knock-ins,” we demonstrate that stochastic flicker of persistent Na+ channels is necessary for the existence of slow perithreshold oscillations that characterize stellate neurons. Channel noise also alters the ability of stellate neurons to phase lock to weak sinusoidal stimuli. These results provide the first direct demonstration that physiological levels of channel noise can produce qualitative changes in the integrative properties of neurons.