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Brain Struct Funct. 2015;220(3):1317-37. doi: 10.1007/s00429-014-0726-8. Epub 2014 Feb 26.

A gradual depth-dependent change in connectivity features of supragranular pyramidal cells in rat barrel cortex.

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Institute for Neuroanatomy, University Medicine Göttingen, Kreuzbergring 36, 37075, Göttingen, Germany,


Recent experimental evidence suggests a finer genetic, structural and functional subdivision of the layers which form a cortical column. The classical layer II/III (LII/III) of rodent neocortex integrates ascending sensory information with contextual cortical information for behavioral read-out. We systematically investigated to which extent regular-spiking supragranular pyramidal neurons, located at different depths within the cortex, show different input-output connectivity patterns. Combining glutamate uncaging with whole-cell recordings and biocytin filling, we revealed a novel cellular organization of LII/III: (1) "Lower LII/III" pyramidal cells receive a very strong excitatory input from lemniscal LIV and much fewer inputs from paralemniscal LVa. They project to all layers of the home column, including a feedback projection to LIV, whereas transcolumnar projections are relatively sparse. (2) "Upper LII/III" pyramidal cells also receive their strongest input from LIV, but in addition, a very strong and dense excitatory input from LVa. They project extensively to LII/III as well as LVa and Vb of their home and neighboring columns. (3) "Middle LII/III" pyramidal cell shows an intermediate connectivity phenotype that stands in many ways in between the features described for lower versus upper LII/III. "Lower LII/III" intracolumnarly segregates and transcolumnarly integrates lemniscal information, whereas "upper LII/III" seems to integrate lemniscal with paralemniscal information. This suggests a fine-grained functional subdivision of the supragranular compartment containing multiple circuits without any obvious cytoarchitectonic, other structural or functional correlate of a laminar border in rodent barrel cortex.

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