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Cereb Cortex. 2009 Oct;19(10):2380-95. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn259. Epub 2009 Feb 2.

Thalamic input to distal apical dendrites in neocortical layer 1 is massive and highly convergent.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, School of Medicine, Autónoma University, Madrid, Spain.

Abstract

Input to apical dendritic tufts is now deemed crucial for associative learning, attention, and similar "feedback" interactions in the cerebral cortex. Excitatory input to apical tufts in neocortical layer 1 has been traditionally assumed to be predominantly cortical, as thalamic pathways directed to this layer were regarded relatively scant and diffuse. However, the sensitive tracing methods used in the present study show that, throughout the rat neocortex, large numbers (mean approximately 4500/mm(2)) of thalamocortical neurons converge in layer 1 and that this convergence gives rise to a very high local density of thalamic terminals. Moreover, we show that the layer 1-projecting neurons are present in large numbers in most, but not all, motor, association, limbic, and sensory nuclei of the rodent thalamus. Some layer 1-projecting axons branch to innervate large swaths of the cerebral hemisphere, whereas others arborize within only a single cortical area. Present data imply that realistic modeling of cortical circuitry should factor in a dense axonal canopy carrying highly convergent thalamocortical input to pyramidal cell apical tufts. In addition, they are consistent with the notion that layer 1-projecting axons may be a robust anatomical substrate for extensive "feedback" interactions between cortical areas via the thalamus.

PMID:
19188274
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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