Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 105: 7298-7303, 2008.
We describe a phenomenon of hyperpolarization-activated graded persistent activity (HAGPA) in prefrontal cortex neurons. Successive hyperpolarizing pulses induced increasingly higher rates of tonic firing that remained stable for tens of seconds, allowing the neuron to retain a memory of the previous history of stimulation. This phenomenon occurred at the cellular level and in the absence of neuromodulators. Neurons with HAGPA had a sag during hyperpolarization, and blocking h-current eliminated the sag and prevented HAGPA, suggesting that the activation of this hyperpolarization- activated cationic current was necessary for the occurrence of the phenomenon. A single-neuron biophysical model including h-current modulation by intracellular calcium was able to display HAGPA. This form of neuronal memory not only allows the transformation of inhibition into an increase of firing rate, but also endows neurons with a mechanism to compute the properties of successive inputs into persistent activity, thus solving a difficult computational problem.