The cholinergic interneurons (CINs) of the striatum are crucial for normal motor and behavioral functions of the basal ganglia. Striatal CINs exhibit tonic firing punctuated by distinct pauses. Pauses occur in response to motivationally significant events, but their function is unknown. Here we investigated the effects of pauses in CIN firing on spiny projection neurons (SPNs) – the output neurons of the striatum – using in vivo whole cell and juxtacellular recordings in mice. We found that optogenetically-induced pauses in CIN firing inhibited subthreshold membrane potential activity and decreased firing of SPNs. During pauses, SPN membrane potential fluctuations became more hyperpolarized and UP state durations became shorter. In addition, short-term plasticity of corticostriatal inputs was decreased during pauses. Our results indicate that, in vivo, the net effect of the pause in CIN firing on SPNs activity is inhibition and provide a novel mechanism for cholinergic control of striatal output.
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