Patchwork-Type Spontaneous Activity in Neonatal Barrel Cortex Layer 4 Transmitted via Thalamocortical Projections

Cell Rep. 2018 Jan 2;22(1):123-135. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.12.012.


Establishment of precise neuronal connectivity in the neocortex relies on activity-dependent circuit reorganization during postnatal development; however, the nature of cortical activity during this period remains largely unknown. Using two-photon calcium imaging of the barrel cortex in vivo during the first postnatal week, we reveal that layer 4 (L4) neurons within the same barrel fire synchronously in the absence of peripheral stimulation, creating a "patchwork" pattern of spontaneous activity corresponding to the barrel map. By generating transgenic mice expressing GCaMP6s in thalamocortical axons, we show that thalamocortical axons also demonstrate the spontaneous patchwork activity pattern. Patchwork activity is diminished by peripheral anesthesia but is mostly independent of self-generated whisker movements. The patchwork activity pattern largely disappeared during postnatal week 2, as even L4 neurons within the same barrel tended to fire asynchronously. This spontaneous L4 activity pattern has features suitable for thalamocortical (TC) circuit refinement in the neonatal barrel cortex.

Keywords: activity-dependent development; awake; barrel cortex; in vivo calcium imaging; neonates; single-cell labeling; spontaneous activity; synchronized activity; thalamocortical axons; whisker monitoring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Axons / metabolism*
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Calcium Signaling / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neocortex* / cytology
  • Neocortex* / growth & development
  • Neocortex* / metabolism


  • Calcium