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PLoS Biol. 2006 Nov;4(12):e382.

Interdigitated paralemniscal and lemniscal pathways in the mouse barrel cortex.

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Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, United States of America.

Erratum in

  • PLoS Biol. 2007 Jan;5(1):e28.


Primary sensory cortical areas receive information through multiple thalamic channels. In the rodent whisker system, lemniscal and paralemniscal thalamocortical projections, from the ventral posteromedial nucleus (VPM) and posterior medial nucleus (POm) respectively, carry distinct types of sensory information to cortex. Little is known about how these separate streams of activity are parsed and integrated within the neocortical microcircuit. We used quantitative laser scanning photostimulation to probe the organization of functional thalamocortical and ascending intracortical projections in the mouse barrel cortex. To map the thalamocortical projections, we recorded from neocortical excitatory neurons while stimulating VPM or POm. Neurons in layers (L)4, L5, and L6A received dense input from thalamus (L4, L5B, and L6A from VPM; and L5A from POm), whereas L2/3 neurons rarely received thalamic input. We further mapped the lemniscal and paralemniscal circuits from L4 and L5A to L2/3. Lemniscal L4 neurons targeted L3 within a column. Paralemniscal L5A neurons targeted a superficial band (thickness, 60 mum) of neurons immediately below L1, defining a functionally distinct L2 in the mouse barrel cortex. L2 neurons received input from lemniscal L3 cells and paralemniscal L5A cells spread over multiple columns. Our data indicate that lemniscal and paralemniscal information is segregated into interdigitated cortical layers.

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