Bert Sakmann

Cortical Column - If You Don't Understand The Function, Do The Structure

Wednesday, 29 June 2011
11:30 - 12:00 hrs CEST


Soma location, dendrite morphology and presynaptic innervation represent key determinants of functional responses of individual neurons, such as sensory-evoked spiking. Here, we reconstruct the three-dimensional networks formed by thalamocortical afferents from the lemniscal pathway and excitatory neurons of an anatomically defined cortical column in rat vibrissal cortex. We objectively classify nine cortical cell types and quantify the number and distribution of their somata, dendrites and thalamocortical synapses. Somata and dendrites of most cell types intermingle, while thalamocortical connectivity depends strongly upon the cell type and the three-dimensional soma location of the postsynaptic neuron. Correlating dendrite morphology and thalamocortical connectivity to functional responses revealed that the lemniscal afferents can account for cell type- and location-specific subthreshold and spiking responses after passive whisker touch. The results provide a quantitative three-dimensional anatomical description of the cell type-specific lemniscal synaptic wiring diagram and elucidate structure-function relationships of this physiologically relevant pathway at single-cell resolution.

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