Pyramidal cell communication within local networks in layer 2/3 of rat neocortex

J Physiol. 2003 Aug 15;551(Pt 1):139-53. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2003.044784. Epub 2003 Jun 17.


The extent to which neocortical pyramidal cells function as a local network is determined by the strength and probability of their connections. By mapping connections between pyramidal cells we show here that in a local network of about 600 pyramidal cells located within a cylindrical volume of 200 microm x 200 microm of neocortical layer 2/3, an individual pyramidal cell receives synaptic inputs from about 30 other pyramidal neurons, with the majority of EPSP amplitudes in the 0.2-1.0 mV range. The probability of connection decreased from 0.09 to 0.01 with intercell distance (over the range 25-200 microm). Within the same volume, local interneuron (fast-spiking non-accommodating interneuron, FS)-pyramidal cell connections were about 10 times more numerous, with the majority of connections being reciprocal. The probability of excitatory and inhibitory connections between pyramidal cells and FS interneurons decreased only slightly with distance, being in the range 0.5-0.75. Pyramidal cells in the local network received strong synaptic input during stimulation of afferent fibres in layers 1 and 6. Minimal-like stimulation of layer 1 or layer 6 inputs simultaneously induced postsynaptic potentials in connected pyramidal cells as well as in pyramidal-FS cell pairs. These inputs readily induced firing of pyramidal cells, although synaptically connected cells displayed different firing patterns. Unitary EPSPs in pyramidal-pyramidal cell pairs did not detectably alter cell firing. FS interneurons fire simultaneously with pyramidal cells. In pyramidal-FS cell pairs, both unitary EPSPs and IPSPs efficiently modulated cell firing patterns. We suggest that computation in the local network may proceed not only by direct pyramidal-pyramidal cell communication but also via local interneurons. With such a high degree of connectivity with surrounding pyramidal cells, local interneurons are ideally poised to both coordinate and expand the local pyramidal cell network via pyramidal-interneuron-pyramidal communication.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology
  • Afferent Pathways / physiology
  • Animals
  • Axons / physiology
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Dendrites / physiology
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Interneurons / physiology
  • Neocortex / cytology
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Synapses / physiology