Recent studies in the ventrobasal (VB) thalamus have shown that astrocytes display spontaneous intracellular calcium [Ca(2+)](i) oscillations early postnatally. [Ca(2+)](i) oscillations are correlated in groups of up to five astrocytes, and propagate between cells. NMDA receptor-mediated, long lasting inward currents in thalamocortical (TC) neurons of the VB complex are correlated to [Ca(2+)](i) increases in neighbouring astrocytes, and stimulation of astrocytic [Ca(2+)](i) increases also lead to inward currents in neurons. These findings suggest that astrocytes are spontaneously active and can induce neuronal activity, a reversal of the previously held view of neuron-glia interactions in the central nervous system. This activity occurs at an important period in the development of the thalamus and therefore suggests a potential functional role in a variety of processes. Along with data on the neurotransmitter receptor repertoire of thalamic astrocytes these findings enlarge the body of knowledge on astrocytes in the thalamus, and further contribute to the emerging field of astrocyte-neuron and neuron-astrocyte interactions in the central nervous system.
- ventrobasal thalamus