Long-range connections enrich cortical computations

Neurosci Res. 2021 Jan;162:1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.neures.2020.05.004. Epub 2020 May 26.


The cerebral cortex can perform powerful computations, including those involved in higher cognitive functions. Cortical processing for such computations is executed by local circuits and is further enriched by long-range connectivity. This connectivity is activated under specific conditions and modulates local processing, providing flexibility in the computational performance of the cortex. For instance, long-range connectivity in the primary visual cortex exerts facilitatory impacts when the cortex is silent but suppressive impacts when the cortex is strongly sensory-stimulated. These dual impacts can be captured by a divisive gain control model. Recent methodological advances such as optogenetics, anatomical tracing, and two-photon microscopy have enabled neuroscientists to probe the circuit and synaptic bases of long-range connectivity in detail. Here, I review a series of evidence indicating essential roles of long-range connectivity in visual and hierarchical processing involving numerous cortical areas. I also describe an overview of the challenges encountered in investigating underlying synaptic mechanisms and highlight recent technical approaches that may overcome these difficulties and provide new insights into synaptic mechanisms for cortical processing involving long-range connectivity.

Keywords: Gain control; Hierarchical processing; Long-range connectivity; Sensory-Motor interaction; Synaptic mechanism; Visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cerebral Cortex
  • Cognition
  • Optogenetics
  • Visual Cortex*