Cell type specificity of local cortical connections

J Neurocytol. 2002 Mar-Jun;31(3-5):231-7. doi: 10.1023/a:1024165824469.


The function of the cerebral cortex is dependent on the precise organization of the circuits formed by its component neurons. The connections between neurons are not random, but are specific at multiple levels of organization. For example, each cortical area connects to only a selected subset of other areas and within any given area the axonal and dendritic arbors of individual neurons arborize in precise, layer-specific patterns (for review see Felleman & Van Essen, 1991; Callaway, 1998). In each layer there are dendrites from multiple cell types including cells with somata both within and outside that layer. Anatomical studies have shown that axons arborizing in a particular cortical layer can connect selectively onto dendrites of some cell types in the layer, while avoiding the dendrites of other cell types (e.g. Freund & Gulyas, 1991; Hornung & Celio, 1992; Staiger et al., 1996). These cell type specific connections are, however, difficult to elucidate with anatomical methods, so the frequency of such specificity has remained elusive. Recent experimental methods combining intracellular recording of single neurons with focal neuronal stimulation by uncaging glutamate with light ("photostimulation") have made the analysis of cell type specific cortical connections more tractable. These studies show that cell type specificity of connections is prevalent in cortex. Here I review photostimulation-based studies investigating the laminar sources of cortical input to distinct cell types in the visual and somatosensory cortices of rats and the primary visual cortex of monkeys.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons
  • Cerebral Cortex / cytology*
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Neural Inhibition
  • Neurons / classification*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology