High-order thalamic inputs to primary somatosensory cortex are stronger and longer lasting than cortical inputs.
ABSTRACT: Layer (L) 2/3 pyramidal neurons in the primary somatosensory cortex (S1) are sparsely active, spontaneously and during sensory stimulation. Long-range inputs from higher areas may gate L2/3 activity. We investigated their in vivo impact by expressing channelrhodopsin in three main sources of feedback to rat S1: primary motor cortex, secondary somatosensory cortex, and secondary somatosensory thalamic nucleus (the posterior medial nucleus, POm). Inputs from cortical areas were relatively weak. POm, however, more robustly depolarized L2/3 cells and, when paired with peripheral stimulation, evoked action potentials. POm triggered not only a stronger fast-onset depolarization but also a delayed all-or-none persistent depolarization, lasting up to 1 s and exhibiting alpha/beta-range oscillations. Inactivating POm somata abolished persistent but not initial depolarization, indicating a recurrent circuit mechanism. We conclude that secondary thalamus can enhance L2/3 responsiveness over long periods. Such timescales could provide a potential modality-specific substrate for attention, working memory, and plasticity.
Project description:Primary somatosensory cortex (S1) receives two distinct classes of thalamocortical input via the lemniscal and paralemniscal pathways, the former via ventral posterior medial nucleus (VPM), and the latter, from the posterior medial nucleus (POm). These projections have been described as parallel thalamocortical pathways. Although the VPM thalamocortical projection has been studied in depth, several details of the POm projection to S1 are unknown. We studied the synaptic properties and anatomical features in the mouse of the projection from POm to all layers of S1 and to layer 4 of secondary somatosensory cortex (S2). Neurons in S1 responded to stimulation of POm with what has been termed Class 2 properties (paired-pulse facilitation, small initial excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs), a graded activation profile, and a metabotropic receptor component; thought to be modulatory), whereas neurons in layer 4 of S2 responded with Class 1A properties (paired-pulse depression, large initial EPSPs, an all-or-none activation profile, and no metabotropic receptor component, thought to be a main information input). Also, labeling from POm produced small boutons in S1, whereas both small and large boutons were found in S2. Our data suggest that the lemniscal and paralemniscal projections should not be thought of as parallel information pathways to S1 and that the paralemniscal projection may instead provide modulatory inputs to S1.
Project description:The striatum is involved in the completion and optimization of sensorimotor tasks. In rodents, its dorsolateral part receives converging glutamatergic corticostriatal (CS) inputs from whisker-related primary somatosensory (S1) and motor (M1) cortical areas, which are interconnected at the cortical level. Although it has been demonstrated that the medium-spiny neurons (MSNs) from the dorsolateral striatum process sensory information from the whiskers via the S1 CS pathway, the functional impact of the corresponding M1 CS inputs onto the same striatal neurons remained unknown. Here, by combining in vivo S1 electrocorticogram with intracellular recordings from somatosensory MSNs in the rat, we first confirmed the heterogeneity of striatal responsiveness to whisker stimuli, encompassing MSNs responding exclusively by subthreshold synaptic depolarizations, MSNs exhibiting sub- and suprathreshold responses over successive stimulations, and non-responding cells. All recorded MSNs also exhibited clear-cut monosynaptic depolarizing potentials in response to electrical stimulations of the corresponding ipsilateral M1 cortex, which were efficient to fire striatal cells. Since M1-evoked responses in MSNs could result from the intra-cortical recruitment of S1 CS neurons, we performed intracellular recordings of S1 pyramidal neurons and compared their firing latency following M1 stimuli to the latency of striatal synaptic responses. We found that the onset of M1-evoked synaptic responses in MSNs significantly preceded the firing of S1 neurons, demonstrating a direct synaptic excitation of MSNs by M1. However, the firing of MSNs seemed to require the combined excitatory effects of S1 and M1 CS inputs. This study directly demonstrates that the same somatosensory MSNs can process excitatory synaptic inputs from two functionally-related sensory and motor cortical regions converging into the same striatal sector. The effectiveness of these convergent cortical inputs in eliciting action potentials in MSNs may represent a key mechanism of striatum-related sensorimotor behaviors.
Project description:Ascending and descending information is relayed through the thalamus via strong, "driver" pathways. According to our current knowledge, different driver pathways are organized in parallel streams and do not interact at the thalamic level. Using an electron microscopic approach combined with optogenetics and in vivo physiology, we examined whether driver inputs arising from different sources can interact at single thalamocortical cells in the rodent somatosensory thalamus (nucleus posterior, POm). Both the anatomical and the physiological data demonstrated that ascending driver inputs from the brainstem and descending driver inputs from cortical layer 5 pyramidal neurons converge and interact on single thalamocortical neurons in POm. Both individual pathways displayed driver properties, but they interacted synergistically in a time-dependent manner and when co-activated, supralinearly increased the output of thalamus. As a consequence, thalamocortical neurons reported the relative timing between sensory events and ongoing cortical activity. We conclude that thalamocortical neurons can receive 2 powerful inputs of different origin, rather than only a single one as previously suggested. This allows thalamocortical neurons to integrate raw sensory information with powerful cortical signals and transfer the integrated activity back to cortical networks.
Project description:Goal-directed behavior involves distributed neuronal circuits in the mammalian brain, including diverse regions of neocortex. However, the cellular basis of long-range cortico-cortical signaling during goal-directed behavior is poorly understood. Here, we recorded membrane potential of excitatory layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons in primary somatosensory barrel cortex (S1) projecting to either primary motor cortex (M1) or secondary somatosensory cortex (S2) during a whisker detection task, in which thirsty mice learn to lick for water reward in response to a whisker deflection. Whisker stimulation in 'Good performer' mice, but not 'Naive' mice, evoked long-lasting biphasic depolarization correlated with task performance in S2-projecting (S2-p) neurons, but not M1-projecting (M1-p) neurons. Furthermore, S2-p neurons, but not M1-p neurons, became excited during spontaneous unrewarded licking in 'Good performer' mice, but not in 'Naive' mice. Thus, a learning-induced, projection-specific signal from S1 to S2 may contribute to goal-directed sensorimotor transformation of whisker sensation into licking motor output.
Project description:Whisker deprivation weakens excitatory layer 4 (L4) inputs to L2/3 pyramidal cells in rat primary somatosensory (S1) cortex, which is likely to contribute to whisker map plasticity. This weakening has been proposed to represent long-term depression (LTD) induced by sensory deprivation in vivo. Here, we studied the synaptic expression mechanisms for deprivation-induced weakening of L4-L2/3 inputs and assessed its similarity to LTD, which is known to be expressed presynaptically at L4-L2/3 synapses. Whisker deprivation increased the paired pulse ratio at L4-L2/3 synapses and slowed the use-dependent block of NMDA receptor currents by MK-801 [(5S,10R)-(+)-5-methyl-10,11-dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d]cyclohepten-5,10-imine maleate], indicating that deprivation reduced transmitter release probability at these synapses. In contrast, deprivation did not alter either miniature EPSC amplitude in L2/3 neurons or the amplitude of quantal L4-L2/3 synaptic responses measured in strontium, indicating that postsynaptic responsiveness was unchanged. In young postnatal day 12 (P12) rats, at least 4 d of deprivation were required to significantly weaken L4-L2/3 synapses. Similar weakening occurred when deprivation began at older ages (P20), when synapses are mostly mature, indicating that weakening is unlikely to represent a failure of synaptic maturation but instead represents a reduction in the strength of existing synapses. Thus, whisker deprivation weakens L4-L2/3 synapses by decreasing presynaptic function, similar to known LTD mechanisms at this synapse.
Project description:Neocortical acetylcholine (ACH) release is known to enhance signal processing by increasing the amplitude and signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) of sensory responses. It is widely accepted that the larger sensory responses are caused by a persistent increase in the excitability of all cortical excitatory neurons. Here, contrary to this concept, we show that ACH persistently inhibits layer 4 (L4) spiny neurons, the main targets of thalamocortical inputs. Using whole-cell recordings in slices of rat primary somatosensory cortex, we demonstrate that this inhibition is specific to L4 and contrasts with the ACH-induced persistent excitation of pyramidal cells in L2/3 and L5. We find that this inhibition is induced by postsynaptic M(4)-muscarinic ACH receptors and is mediated by the opening of inwardly rectifying potassium (K(ir)) channels. Pair recordings of L4 spiny neurons show that ACH reduces synaptic release in the L4 recurrent microcircuit. We conclude that ACH has a differential layer-specific effect that results in a filtering of weak sensory inputs in the L4 recurrent excitatory microcircuit and a subsequent amplification of relevant inputs in L2/3 and L5 excitatory microcircuits. This layer-specific effect may contribute to improve cortical SNR.
Project description:In classical sensory cortical map plasticity, the representation of deprived or underused inputs contracts within cortical sensory maps, whereas spared inputs expand. Expansion of spared inputs occurs preferentially into nearby cortical columns representing temporally correlated spared inputs, suggesting that expansion involves correlation-based learning rules at cross-columnar synapses. It is unknown whether deprived representations contract in a similar anisotropic manner, which would implicate similar learning rules and sites of plasticity. We briefly deprived D-row whiskers in 20-day-old rats, so that each deprived whisker had deprived (D-row) and spared (C- and E-row) neighbors. Intrinsic signal optical imaging revealed that D-row deprivation weakened and contracted the functional representation of deprived D-row whiskers in L2/3 of somatosensory (S1) cortex. Spared whisker representations did not strengthen or expand, indicating that D-row deprivation selectively engages the depression component of map plasticity. Contraction of deprived whisker representations was spatially uniform, with equal withdrawal from spared and deprived neighbors. Single-unit electrophysiological recordings confirmed these results, and showed substantial weakening of responses to deprived whiskers in layer 2/3 of S1, and modest weakening in L4. The observed isotropic contraction of deprived whisker representations during D-row deprivation is consistent with plasticity at intracolumnar, rather than cross-columnar, synapses.
Project description:To understand striatal function, it is essential to know the functional organization of the numerous inputs targeting the diverse population of striatal neurons. Using optogenetics, we activated terminals from ipsi- or contralateral primary somatosensory cortex (S1) or primary motor cortex (M1), or thalamus while obtaining simultaneous whole-cell recordings from pairs or triplets of striatal medium spiny neurons (MSNs) and adjacent interneurons. Ipsilateral corticostriatal projections provided stronger excitation to fast-spiking interneurons (FSIs) than to MSNs and only sparse and weak excitation to low threshold-spiking interneurons (LTSIs) and cholinergic interneurons (ChINs). Projections from contralateral M1 evoked the strongest responses in LTSIs but none in ChINs, whereas thalamus provided the strongest excitation to ChINs but none to LTSIs. In addition, inputs varied in their glutamate receptor composition and their short-term plasticity. Our data revealed a highly selective organization of excitatory striatal afferents, which is determined by both pre- and postsynaptic neuronal identity.
Project description:The representation of rodents' mystacial vibrissae within the primary somatosensory (S1) cortex has become a major model for studying the cortical processing of tactile sensory information. However, upon vibrissal stimulation, tactile information first reaches S1 but also, almost simultaneously, the secondary somatosensory cortex (S2). To further understand the role of S2 in the processing of whisker inputs, it is essential to characterize the spatio-temporal properties of whisker-evoked response dynamics in this area. Here we describe the topography of the whiskers representation in the mouse S2 with voltage sensitive dye imaging. Analysis of the spatial properties of the early S2 responses induced by stimulating individually 22 to 24 whiskers revealed that they are spatially ordered in a mirror symmetric map with respect to S1 responses. Evoked signals in S2 and S1 are of similar amplitude and closely correlated at the single trial level. They confirm a short delay (~3?ms) between S1 and S2 early activation. In both S1 and S2 caudo-dorsal whiskers induce stronger responses than rostro-ventral ones. Finally, analysis of early C2-evoked responses indicates a faster activation of neighboring whisker representations in S2 relative to S1, probably due to the reduced size of the whisker map in S2.
Project description:Mouse primary somatosensory barrel cortex (wS1) processes whisker sensory information, receiving input from two distinct thalamic nuclei. The first-order ventral posterior medial (VPM) somatosensory thalamic nucleus most densely innervates layer 4 (L4) barrels, whereas the higher-order posterior thalamic nucleus (medial part, POm) most densely innervates L1 and L5A. We optogenetically stimulated VPM or POm axons, and recorded evoked excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) in different cell-types across cortical layers in wS1. We found that excitatory neurons and parvalbumin-expressing inhibitory neurons received the largest EPSPs, dominated by VPM input to L4 and POm input to L5A. In contrast, somatostatin-expressing inhibitory neurons received very little input from either pathway in any layer. Vasoactive intestinal peptide-expressing inhibitory neurons received an intermediate level of excitatory input with less apparent layer-specificity. Our data help understand how wS1 neocortical microcircuits might process and integrate sensory and higher-order inputs.