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Thalamus drives two complementary input strata of the neocortex in parallel

By R. Egger, R.T. Narayanan, D. Udvary, A. Bast, J.M. Guest, Sudeshna Das, C.P.J. de Kock, M. Oberlaender

Posted 18 Jan 2019
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/524298 (published DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.10.011)

Sensory information enters the neocortex via thalamocortical axons that define the major 'input' layer 4. The same thalamocortical axons, however, additionally innervate the deep 'output' layers 5/6. How such bistratification impacts cortical processing remains unknown. Here, we find a class of neurons that cluster specifically around thalamocortical axons at the layer 5/6 border. We show that these border stratum cells are characterized by extensive horizontal axons, that they receive strong convergent input from the thalamus, and that this input is sufficient to drive reliable sensory-evoked responses, which precede those in layer 4. These cells are hence strategically placed to amplify and relay thalamocortical inputs across the cortical area, for example to drive the fast onsets of cortical output patterns. Layer 4 is therefore not the sole starting point of cortical processing. Instead, parallel activation of layer 4 and the border stratum is necessary to broadcast information out of the neocortex.

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