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J Comp Neurol. 2001 Aug 6;436(4):508-19.

Fundamental differences between the thalamocortical recipient layers of the cat auditory and visual cortices.

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Department of Anatomy, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison, Wisconsin 53706, USA.


In visual and somatosensory cortices of several species, spiny stellate cells in layer 4 are the first elements in signal processing where thalamic information is integrated and emergent receptive field properties are generated and sent on to more superficial cortical layers. In vivo and in vitro experiments have provided important information about how the anatomy and physiology of these cells and this layer fit into the functional cortical circuitry. No such data exist for the auditory cortex but are requisite if we are to understand whether ideas about information processing in one sensory cortical area can be generalized to another. Accordingly, we used in vitro slices from which to record and labeled cells in the middle layers of the cat auditory and visual cortices to compare basic anatomical and physiological features of cells recovered in similar layers using the same methods. Our results demonstrate a striking difference in a basic characteristic of two primary sensory cortical areas. In the visual cortex, spiny stellate cells predominate, receive short-latency synaptic inputs, and project to supergranular layers. No such spiny stellate population is encountered in the middle layers of the auditory cortex. Spiny cells that are not stellate or pyramidal are occasionally encountered but, as a group, do not display consistent anatomical or physiological features that might allow them to function as auditory cortical versions of the visual spiny stellates. Rather, pyramidal cells in the lower half of layer 3 and layer 4 appear to have assumed this role.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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