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Cereb Cortex. 2006 Jun;16(6):865-75. Epub 2005 Sep 8.

Synaptic distinction of laminar-specific prefrontal-temporal pathways in primates.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Boston University and School of Medicine, Boston, MA, USA.


Prefrontal pathways exert diverse effects in widespread cortical areas, issuing projections both to the middle layers and to layer I, which are anatomically and functionally distinct. Here we addressed the still unanswered question of whether cortical pathways that terminate in different layers are distinct at the synaptic level. We addressed this issue using as a model system the robust and functionally significant pathways from prefrontal areas 10 and 32 to superior temporal areas in rhesus monkeys. Boutons from prefrontal axons synapsing in the middle layers of superior temporal cortex were significantly larger than boutons synapsing in layer I. Most synapses were on spines in both layers, which are found on dendrites of excitatory neurons. The less prevalent synapses on smooth dendrites, characteristic of inhibitory interneurons, were more common in the middle cortical layers than in layer I. Bouton volume was linearly related to vesicular and mitochondrial content in both layers, though a subset of small boutons, found mostly in layer I, contained no mitochondria. The systematic laminar-specific presynaptic differences in stable cortical synapses in adult primates were independent of their origin in the functionally distinct prefrontal areas 10 and 32, or their destination in architectonically distinct superior temporal areas. This synaptic distinction suggests differences in efficacy of synaptic transmission and metabolic demands in laminar-specific pathways that may be selectively recruited in behavior.

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