To investigate the mechanisms of persistent neural activity, we obtained in vivo intracellular recordings from neurons in an oculomotor neural integrator of the goldfish during spontaneous saccades and fixations. Persistent changes in firing rate following saccades were associated with step changes in interspike membrane potential that were correlated with changes in eye position. Perturbation of persistent activity with brief intracellular current pulses designed to mimic saccadic input only induced transient changes of firing rate and membrane potential. When neurons were hyperpolarized below action potential threshold, position-correlated step changes in membrane potential remained. Membrane potential fluctuations were greater during more depolarized steps. These results suggest that sustained changes in firing rate are supported not by either membrane multistability or changes in pacemaker currents, but rather by persistent changes in the rate or amplitude of synaptic inputs.
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