The primary somatosensory (S1) and primary motor (M1) cortices are reciprocally connected, and their interaction has long been hypothesized to contribute to coordinated motor output. Very little is known, however, about the nature and synaptic properties of the S1 input to M1. Here we wanted to take advantage of a previously developed sensorimotor slice preparation that preserves much of the S1-to-M1 connectivity (Rocco MM, Brumberg JC. J Neurosci Methods 162: 139-147, 2007), as well as available optogenetic methodologies, in order to investigate the synaptic profile of this projection. Our data show that S1 input to pyramidal cells of M1 is highly homogeneous, possesses many features of a "driver" pathway, such as paired-pulse depression and lack of metabotropic glutamate receptor activation, and is mediated through axons that terminate in both small and large synaptic boutons. Our data suggest that S1 provides M1 with afferents that possess synaptic and anatomical characteristics ideal for the delivery of strong inputs that can "drive" postsynaptic M1 cells, thereby potentially affecting their output.
Keywords: barrel cortex; corticocortical pathway; drivers; motor cortex; sensorimotor integration.
Copyright © 2015 the American Physiological Society.