Stereotyped Position of Local Synaptic Targets in Neocortex

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Science  03 Aug 2001:
Vol. 293, Issue 5531, pp. 868-872
DOI: 10.1126/science.293.5531.868

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The microcircuitry of the mammalian neocortex remains largely unknown. Although the neocortex could be composed of scores of precise circuits, an alternative possibility is that local connectivity is probabilistic or even random. To examine the precision and degree of determinism in the neocortical microcircuitry, we used optical probing to reconstruct microcircuits in layer 5 from mouse primary visual cortex. We stimulated “trigger” cells, isolated from a homogenous population of corticotectal pyramidal neurons, while optically detecting “follower” neurons directly driven by the triggers. Followers belonged to a few selective anatomical classes with stereotyped physiological and synaptic responses. Moreover, even the position of the followers appeared determined across animals. Our data reveal precisely organized cortical microcircuits.

  • * To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: jkjames{at}

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