The Effect of Single Pyramidal Neuron Firing Within Layer 2/3 and Layer 4 in Mouse V1

Front Neural Circuits. 2018 Apr 16:12:29. doi: 10.3389/fncir.2018.00029. eCollection 2018.


The influence of cortical cell spiking activity on nearby cells has been studied extensively in vitro. Less is known, however, about the impact of single cell firing on local cortical networks in vivo. In a pioneering study, Kwan and Dan (Kwan and Dan, 2012) reported that in mouse layer 2/3 (L2/3), under anesthesia, stimulating a single pyramidal cell recruits ~2.1% of neighboring units. Here we employ two-photon calcium imaging in layer 2/3 of mouse V1, in conjunction with single-cell patch clamp stimulation in layer 2/3 or layer 4, to probe, in both the awake and lightly anesthetized states, how (i) activating single L2/3 pyramidal neurons recruits neighboring units within L2/3 and from layer 4 (L4) to L2/3, and whether (ii) activating single pyramidal neurons changes population activity in local circuit. To do this, it was essential to develop an algorithm capable of quantifying how sensitive the calcium signal is at detecting effectively recruited units ("followers"). This algorithm allowed us to estimate the chance of detecting a follower as a function of the probability that an epoch of stimulation elicits one extra action potential (AP) in the follower cell. Using this approach, we found only a small fraction (<0.75%) of L2/3 cells to be significantly activated within a radius of ~200 μm from a stimulated neighboring L2/3 pyramidal cell. This fraction did not change significantly in the awake vs. the lightly anesthetized state, nor when stimulating L2/3 vs. underlying L4 pyramidal neurons. These numbers are in general agreement with, though lower than, the percentage of neighboring cells (2.1% pyramidal cells and interneurons combined) reported by Kwan and Dan to be activated upon stimulating single L2/3 pyramidal neurons under anesthesia (Kwan and Dan, 2012). Interestingly, despite the small number of individual units found to be reliably driven, we did observe a modest but significant elevation in aggregate population responses compared to sham stimulation. This underscores the distributed impact that single cell stimulation has on neighboring microcircuit responses, revealing only a small minority of relatively strongly connected partners.

One sentence summary: Patch-clamp stimulation in conjunction with 2-photon imaging shows that activating single layer-2/3 or layer-4 pyramidal neurons produces few (<1% of local units) reliable single-cell followers in L2/3 of mouse area V1, either under light anesthesia or in quiet wakefulness: instead, single cell stimulation was found to elevate aggregate population activity in a weak but highly distributed fashion.

Keywords: calcium imaging; cortex; electrical stimulation; functional connectivity; in vivo patch-clamp recording; mouse V1; two-photon microscopy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Interneurons / physiology*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques / methods
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Synapses / physiology*