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Nature. 2018 Apr 5;556(7699):51-56. doi: 10.1038/nature26159. Epub 2018 Mar 28.

The logic of single-cell projections from visual cortex.

Author information

Department of Neurobiology, School of Basic Medicine and Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.
Institute for Brain Research, Collaborative Innovation Center for Brain Science, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, China.
Biozentrum, University of Basel, 4056 Basel, Switzerland.
Watson School of Biological Sciences, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA.
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Cold Spring Harbor, New York, USA.
Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, University College London, London, UK.


Neocortical areas communicate through extensive axonal projections, but the logic of information transfer remains poorly understood, because the projections of individual neurons have not been systematically characterized. It is not known whether individual neurons send projections only to single cortical areas or distribute signals across multiple targets. Here we determine the projection patterns of 591 individual neurons in the mouse primary visual cortex using whole-brain fluorescence-based axonal tracing and high-throughput DNA sequencing of genetically barcoded neurons (MAPseq). Projections were highly diverse and divergent, collectively targeting at least 18 cortical and subcortical areas. Most neurons targeted multiple cortical areas, often in non-random combinations, suggesting that sub-classes of intracortical projection neurons exist. Our results indicate that the dominant mode of intracortical information transfer is not based on 'one neuron-one target area' mapping. Instead, signals carried by individual cortical neurons are shared across subsets of target areas, and thus concurrently contribute to multiple functional pathways.

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