Local connections to specific types of layer 6 neurons in the rat visual cortex

J Neurophysiol. 2006 Mar;95(3):1751-61. doi: 10.1152/jn.00974.2005. Epub 2005 Nov 30.


Because layer 6 of the cerebral cortex receives direct thalamic input and provides projections back to the thalamus, it is in a unique position to influence thalamocortical interactions. Different types of layer 6 pyramidal neurons provide output to different thalamic nuclei, and it is therefore of interest to understand the sources of functional input to these neurons. We studied the morphologies and local excitatory input to individual layer 6 neurons in rat visual cortex by combining intracellular labeling and recording with laser-scanning photostimulation. As in previous photostimulation studies, we found significant differences in the sources of local excitatory input to different cell types. Most notably, there were differences in local input to neurons that, based on analogy to barrel cortex, are likely to project only to the lateral geniculate nucleus of the thalamus versus those that are likely to also project to the lateral posterior nucleus. The more striking finding, however, was the paucity of superficial layer input to layer 6 neurons in the rat visual cortex, contrasting sharply with layer 6 neurons in the primate visual cortex. These observations provide insight into differences in function between cortical projections to first-order versus higher-order thalamic nuclei and also show that these circuits can be organized differently in different species.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neurons / cytology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Thalamic Nuclei / cytology
  • Thalamic Nuclei / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / cytology*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / cytology*
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*