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J Comp Neurol. 1994 Mar 1;341(1):39-49.

Polyneuronal innervation of spiny stellate neurons in cat visual cortex.

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Medical Research Council Anatomical Neuropharmacology Unit, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Our hypothesis was that spiny stellate neurons in layer 4 of cat visual cortex receive polyneuronal innervation. We characterised the synapses of four likely sources of innervation by three simple criteria: the type of synapse, the target (spine, dendritic shaft), and the area of the presynaptic bouton. The layer 6 pyramids had the smallest boutons and formed asymmetric synapses mainly with the dendritic shaft. The thalamic afferents had the largest boutons and formed asymmetric synapses mainly with spines. The spiny stellates had medium-sized boutons and formed asymmetric synapses mainly with spines. We used these to make a "template" to match against the boutons forming synapses with the spiny stellate dendrite. Of the asymmetric synapses, 45% could have come from layer 6 pyramidal neurons, 28% from spiny stellate neurons, and 6% from thalamic afferents. The remaining 21% of asymmetric synapses could not be accounted for without assuming some additional selectivity of the presynaptic axons. Additional asymmetric synapses may come from a variety of sources, including other cortical neurons and subcortical nuclei such as the claustrum. Of the symmetric synapses, 84% could have been provided by clutch cells, which form large boutons. The remainder, formed by small boutons, probably come from other smooth neurons in layer 4, e.g., neurogliaform and bitufted neurons. Our analysis supports the hypothesis that the spiny stellate receives polyneuronal innervation, perhaps from all the sources of boutons in layer 4. Although layer 4 is the major recipient of thalamic afferents, our results show that they form only a few percent of the synapses of layer 4 spiny stellate neurons.

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