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Strength and dendritic organization of thalamocortical synapses onto excitatory layer 4 neurons

Schoonover, Carl E.

The thalamus is a potent driver of cortical activity, even though cortical synapses onto layer 4 (L4) neurons outnumber thalamic synapses ten to one. Previous in vitro studies have suggested that enhanced efficacy of thalamocortical (TC) relative to corticocortical (CC) synapses explains the effectiveness of the thalamus. We investigated possible key anatomical and physiological differences between these inputs onto excitatory L4 neurons in vivo. We developed a high-throughput light microscopy method, validated by electron microscopy, to completely map the locations of synapses across an entire dendritic tree. This demonstrated that TC synapses are slightly more proximal to the soma than CC synapses, but detailed compartmental modeling predicted that dendritic filtering does not appreciably favor one synaptic class over another. Measurements of synaptic strength in intact animals revealed that both TC and CC synapses are weak and approximately equivalent. We conclude that thalamic potency relies, not on enhanced TC strength, but on coincident activation of converging inputs.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Neurobiology and Behavior
Thesis Advisors
Bruno, Randy
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
August 19, 2013
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