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J Physiol. 2007 Nov 15;585(Pt 1):103-16. Epub 2007 Oct 4.

Postnatal development of synaptic transmission in local networks of L5A pyramidal neurons in rat somatosensory cortex.

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Abteilung Zellphysiologie, Max-Planck-Institut für Medizinische Forschung, Jahnstrasse 29, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


The probability of synaptic transmitter release determines the spread of excitation and the possible range of computations at unitary connections. To investigate whether synaptic properties between neocortical pyramidal neurons change during the assembly period of cortical circuits, whole-cell voltage recordings were made simultaneously from two layer 5A (L5A) pyramidal neurons within the cortical columns of rat barrel cortex. We found that synaptic transmission between L5A pyramidal neurons is very reliable between 2 and 3 weeks of postnatal development with a mean unitary EPSP amplitude of approximately 1.2 mV, but becomes less efficient and fails more frequently in the more mature cortex of approximately 4 weeks of age with a mean unitary EPSP amplitude of 0.65 mV. Coefficient of variation and failure rate increase as the unitary EPSP amplitude decreases during development. The paired-pulse ratio (PPR) of synaptic efficacy at 10 Hz changes from 0.7 to 1.04. Despite the overall increase in PPR, short-term plasticity displays a large variability at 4 weeks, ranging from strong depression to strong facilitation (PPR, range 0.6-2.1), suggesting the potential for use-dependent modifications at this intracortical synapse. In conclusion, the transmitter release probability at the L5A-L5A connection is developmentally regulated in such a way that in juvenile animals excitation by single action potentials is efficiently transmitted, whereas in the more mature cortex synapses might be endowed with a diversity of filtering characteristics.

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