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J Neurosci. 1996 Sep 1;16(17):5290-300.

Morphology and physiology of cortical neurons in layer I.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, University of Tennessee, Memphis 38163, USA.


The electrophysiological and morphological properties of layer I neurons were studied in visual cortex slices from 7- to 19-d-old rats using whole-cell recording and biocytin labeling. A heterogeneous population of small, nonpyramidal neurons was found. Approximately one third of the cells we recorded were neurogliaform cells; another third were multipolar neurons with axons descending out of layer I. The remaining cells were heterogeneous and were not classified. In slices from 7- to 10-d-old animals only, we identified Cajal-Retzius cells. Neurogliaform neurons had a very dense local axonal field, which was largely contained within layer I. Cells with descending axons had a relatively sparse local axonal arbor and projected at least to layer II and sometimes deeper. Spiking in neurogliaform neurons was followed by an afterdepolarizing potential, whereas spiking in cells with descending axons was followed by a slow after-hyperpolarizing potential (AHP). In addition, neurogliaform cells exhibited less spike broadening and a larger fast AHP after single spikes than did cells with descending axons. Generally, cells in layer I received synaptic inputs characterized as either GABA- or glutamate-mediated, suggesting the presence of excitatory and inhibitory inputs. With their output largely limited to layer I, neurogliaform cells could synapse with other layer I neurons, the most distal dendritic branches of pyramidal cells, or the dendrites of layer II/III interneurons, which invade layer I. Cells with descending axons could contact a wide variety of cortical cells throughout their vertical projection.

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