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Ciba Found Symp. 1995;193:150-72; discussion 192-9.

Subplate neurons and the patterning of thalamocortial connections.

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  • 1Division of Neuroscience, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA, USA.


The patterning of the cerebral cortex into functionally distinct domains relies on the formation of appropriate connections between the thalamus and the cortex during development. To identify the mechanisms that underlie cortical target selection by thalamic axons, we have examined the role of cellular interactions in the formation of connections between the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and the visual cortex during development of the cat visual system. The morphology of LGN axons as they grow towards the visual cortex suggests that interactions within the subplate zone may be important in the development of geniculocortical connections. The requirement for subplate neurons in this process was examined by ablating subplate neurons underlying the visual cortex at various developmental stages. When subplate cells are deleted between E38 and E42, prior to target innervation by LGN axons, these axons fail to select the visual cortex as their correct target and instead grow past it, staying restricted to the white matter. Deletion of subplate cells at later stages, between P2 and P7, does not affect target selection, but instead it prevents the segregation of LGN axons into ocular dominance columns within layer IV of the cortex. The effects of subplate neuron ablation suggest that interactions between thalamic axons and subplate cells are of critical importance in the specification of thalamocortical connections during development.

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