Development of intrinsic connections in cat somatosensory cortex

J Comp Neurol. 1997 Aug 11;384(4):501-16.


We explored the development of clustered connections in cat somatosensory cortex by using intracortical injections of biocytin and carbocyanine dye (DiI). Biocytin injections in adults revealed clusters of retrogradely labeled cells, affirming earlier reports of the patchy nature of corticocortical connectivity in the adult cat somatosensory cortex. On postnatal days (PNDs) 1 and 3, a diffuse distribution of axons and labeled cells were found after DiI injections. A dramatic rearrangement of connections had taken place by PND 6. Well-defined clusters of labeled cells surrounded the injection site. Intercluster zones were relatively free of labeled cells and contained few labeled axons. At later ages (PNDs 12 and 15), a clear patchy distribution of intrinsic connections was seen. We analyzed neuronal clustering by using spatial point process analysis, which corroborated our qualitative observations. The density of labeled neurons was significantly higher in clusters than in the intercluster zones on PND 6. Autocorrelations run on profile plots of optical density values, along paths parallel to the edge of the injection sites (reflecting axonal distributions), revealed significant periodicity (P < .05; center-to-center approximately 750 pm) by PND 6. These data demonstrate that corticocortical connections in cat somatosensory cortex develop from a diffuse network at birth, which transforms into a patchy network by the end of the 1st postnatal week. This is substantially earlier than the development of local circuits in the cat visual cortex and may reflect fundamental differences in the organization of the two cortices.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain Mapping
  • Cats
  • Coloring Agents / chemistry
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Lysine / analogs & derivatives
  • Lysine / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neural Pathways / growth & development*
  • Neural Pathways / ultrastructure
  • Somatosensory Cortex / growth & development*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology
  • Somatosensory Cortex / ultrastructure


  • Coloring Agents
  • biocytin
  • Lysine