The formation of afferent patterns in the somatosensory cortex of the neonatal rat

J Comp Neurol. 1979 Jan 15;183(2):285-303. doi: 10.1002/cne.901830206.


In the rat, the clustered pattern of thalamocortical afferent terminals to the "barrel field" portion of primary somatosensory cortex replicates the arrangement of vibrissae on the face, and the pattern of the terminals can be altered by the removal of vibrissae on the face, and the pattern of the terminals can be altered by the removal of vibrissae at birth (Killackey et al., '76). These patterns of terminals were studied using enzyme succinic dehydrogenase (SDH) because in somatosensory cortex the activity levels of SDH closely correspond to the patterns of thalamocortical afferent terminals. The present experiments show that the pattern of high SDH segmentation in the portion of layer IV of somatosensory cortex that is related to the vibrissae develops during postnatal Day 3 through 6. Activity related to the centers of individual clusters is first visible, with indistinct boundaries. At later times the edges of individual clusters become apparent. Further, in animals with Row C of vibrissae removed at birth, the abnormal SDH segmentation in somatosensory cortex develops with a time course similar to that of normal animals. At ages when edge boundaries are first distinct, a fused band corresponding to the removed row of vibrissae is present. Thus the aberrant organization seen in the adult cortex is the result of an abnormal initial development, not a later reorganization from a normal pattern. And indeed, vibrissae removal at Day 5 or 6 does not result in an aberrant cortical SDH pattern. Finally, after removal of all five rows of mystacial vibrissae at birth, the cortical SDH pattern seen at postnatal Days 6 and 7 consists of five bands in place of the normally present five rows of clusters. This may indicate that closer relationships exist between vibrissae within one row than vibrissae in adjacent rows.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Brain Mapping
  • Face / innervation*
  • Hair
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development
  • Neurons, Afferent
  • Rats
  • Somatosensory Cortex / growth & development*
  • Thalamus / growth & development
  • Touch / physiology*