Rapid Bidirectional Reorganization of Cortical Microcircuits

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Mature neocortex adapts to altered sensory input by changing neural activity in cortical circuits. The underlying cellular mechanisms remain unclear. We used blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show reorganization in somatosensory cortex elicited by altered whisker sensory input. We found that there was rapid expansion followed by retraction of whisker cortical maps. The cellular basis for the reorganization in primary somatosensory cortex was investigated with paired electrophysiological recordings in the periphery of the expanded whisker representation. During map expansion, the chance of finding a monosynaptic connection between pairs of pyramidal neurons increased 3-fold. Despite the rapid increase in local excitatory connectivity, the average strength and synaptic dynamics did not change, which suggests that new excitatory connections rapidly acquire the properties of established excitatory connections. During map retraction, entire excitatory connections between pyramidal neurons were lost. In contrast, connectivity between pyramidal neurons and fast spiking interneurons was unchanged. Hence, the changes in local excitatory connectivity did not occur in all circuits involving pyramidal neurons. Our data show that pyramidal neurons are recruited to and eliminated from local excitatory networks over days. These findings suggest that the local excitatory connectome is dynamic in mature neocortex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3025-35
Number of pages11
JournalCerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)
Issue number9
Early online date16 May 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


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