Rearrangements of synaptic connections in visual cortex revealed by laser photostimulation

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Science  08 Jul 1994:
Vol. 265, Issue 5169, pp. 255-258
DOI: 10.1126/science.7912852


Assessing patterns of synaptic connections in the developing mammalian neocortex has relied primarily on anatomical studies. In a physiological approach described here, the patterns of synaptic connections in slices of developing ferret visual cortex were determined with scanning laser photostimulation. Functional synaptic inputs to pyramidal cells in cortical layers 2 and 3 originating from sites close to the neuronal cell body appeared at least 2 weeks before eye opening, prior to the formation of long-range horizontal connections. Extensive long-range horizontal connections appeared in the next 10 days of development. The number of local connections peaked at the time of eye opening; the number of these connections subsequently declined to the level found in the adult while the specificity of long-distance connections increased. Thus, the relative influence of local connections on the activity of layer 2 and layer 3 neurons declines as the cortex matures while the influence of longer range connections increases substantially.

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