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Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2011 Nov;35(10):2094-104. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.05.004. Epub 2011 May 14.

From elementary synaptic circuits to information processing in primary auditory cortex.

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Zilkha Neurogenetic Institute, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, 1501 San Pablo Street, Los Angeles, CA 90033, United States.


A key for understanding how information is processed in the cortex is to unravel the dauntingly complex cortical neural circuitry. Recent technical innovations, in particular the in vivo whole-cell voltage-clamp recording techniques, make it possible to directly dissect the excitatory and inhibitory inputs underlying an individual cortical neuron's processing function. This method provides an essential complement to conventional approaches, with which the transfer functions of the neural system are derived by correlating neuronal spike outputs to sensory inputs. Here, we intend to introduce a potentially systematic strategy for resolving the structure of functional synaptic circuits. As complex circuits can be built upon elementary modules, the primary focus of this strategy is to identify elementary synaptic circuits and determine how these circuit units contribute to specific processing functions. This review will summarize recent studies on functional synaptic circuits in the primary auditory cortex, comment on existing experimental techniques for in vivo circuitry studies, and provide a perspective on immediate future directions.

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