Neural activity: sculptor of 'barrels' in the neocortex

Trends Neurosci. 2001 Oct;24(10):589-95. doi: 10.1016/s0166-2236(00)01958-5.


A major portion of the primary somatosensory cortex of rodents is characterized by the discrete and patterned distribution of thalamocortical axons and layer IV granule cells ('barrels'), which correspond to the spatial distribution of whiskers and sinus hairs on the snout. In recent years several mutant mouse models began unveiling the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which these patterns emerge presynaptically and are reflected postsynaptically. Neural activity plays a crucial role in conferring presynaptic patterns to postsynaptic cells via neurotransmitter receptor-mediated intracellular signals. Here we review recent evidence that is finally opening the doors to understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms of pattern formation in the neocortex.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Vibrissae / innervation