Most functional plasticity studies in the cortex have focused on layers (L) II/III and IV, whereas relatively little is known of LV. Structural measurements of dendritic spines in vivo suggest some specialization among LV cell subtypes. We therefore studied experience-dependent plasticity in the barrel cortex using intracellular recordings to distinguish regular spiking (RS) and intrinsic bursting (IB) subtypes. Postsynaptic potentials and suprathreshold responses in vivo revealed a remarkable dichotomy in RS and IB cell plasticity; spared whisker potentiation occurred in IB but not RS cells while deprived whisker depression occurred in RS but not IB cells. Similar RS/IB differences were found in the LII/III to V connections in brain slices. Modeling studies showed that subthreshold changes predicted the suprathreshold changes. These studies demonstrate the major functional partition of plasticity within a single cortical layer and reveal the LII/III to LV connection as a major excitatory locus of cortical plasticity.
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