During the critical period, neuronal connections are shaped by sensory experience. While the basis for this temporarily heightened plasticity remains unclear, shared connections introducing activity correlations likely play a key role. Thus, we investigated the changing intracortical connectivity in primary auditory cortex (A1) over development. In adult, layer 2/3 (L2/3) neurons receive ascending inputs from layer 4 (L4) and also receive few inputs from subgranular layer 5/6 (L5/6). We measured the spatial pattern of intracortical excitatory and inhibitory connections to L2/3 neurons in slices of mouse A1 across development using laser-scanning photostimulation. Before P11, L2/3 cells receive most excitatory input from within L2/3. Excitatory inputs from L2/3 and L4 increase after P5 and peak during P9-16. L5/6 inputs increase after P5 and provide most input during P12-16, the peak of the critical period. Inhibitory inputs followed a similar pattern. Functional circuit diversity in L2/3 emerges after P16. In vivo two-photon imaging shows low pairwise signal correlations in neighboring neurons before P11, which peak at P15-16 and decline after. Our results suggest that the critical period is characterized by high pairwise activity correlations and that transient hyperconnectivity of specific circuits, in particular those originating in L5/6, might play a key role.
Keywords: Auditory cortex; cerebral cortex; circuits; correlation; critical period; development; intracortical; layer 2/3; layer 5/6; mouse; refinement; subgranular; transient.
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