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Eur J Neurosci. 2011 Nov;34(10):1663-76. doi: 10.1111/j.1460-9568.2011.07892.x.

What can we get from 'barrels': the rodent barrel cortex as a model for studying the establishment of neural circuits.

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The Cain Foundation Laboratories, Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children's Hospital, Houston, TX, USA.


Sensory inputs triggered by external stimuli are projected into discrete arrays of neuronal modules in the primary sensory cortex. This whisker-to-barrel pathway has gained in popularity as a model system for studying the development of cortical circuits and sensory processing because its clear patterns facilitate the identification of genetically modified mice with whisker map deficits and make possible coordinated in vitro and in vivo electrophysiological studies. Numerous whisker map determinants have been identified in the past two decades. In this review, we summarize what have we learned from the detailed studies conducted in various mutant mice with cortical whisker map deficits. We will specifically focus on the anatomical and functional establishment of the somatosensory thalamocortical circuits.

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