A polysynaptic feedback circuit in rat visual cortex

Randall R. Johnson, Andreas Burkhalter

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Feedback connections from extrastriate cortex to primary visual cortex (V1) in the primate may provide 'top-down' information that plays a role in visual attention and object recognition. Our work in a rodent model of corticocortical circuitry demonstrates that feedback pathways synapse preferentially with pyramidal cells in V1 (Johnson and Burkhalter, 1996) and favor excitation over inhibition in cortical microcircuits (Shao and Burkhalter, 1996). To investigate the polysynaptic circuits activated by feedback inputs, we studied chains of neurons postsynaptic to feedback connections using a combination of axonal tract tracing and anterograde degeneration. This approach enabled independent labeling of local collaterals of forward-projecting neurons in V1 and feedback connections from extrastriate lateromedial (LM) visual area to V1. Postaynaptic targets were identified in the electron microscope after retrograde transport of biotinylated dextran amine (BDA) to identify dendrites of forward-projecting neurons (i.e., from V1 to LM) and postembedding immunogold labeling to identify GABAergic interneurons. The results show that feedback connections provide strong monosynaptic input to forward-projecting neurons in V1. These neurons in turn make local connections that preferentially form synapses with other pyramidal cells (~97%), many of which were identified as forward- projecting neurons. This indicates that feedback pathways provide input directly to neurons which make the reciprocal forward connection, and that feedback-recipient forward-projecting neurons are strongly interconnected. The function of these excitatory networks within V1 may be to amplify feedback activity and provide a circuit for modulation of striate cortical activity by top-down influences.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7129-7140
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number18
StatePublished - 1997


  • Corticocortical connections
  • Electron microscopy
  • Feedback connections
  • Intrinsic connections
  • Postembedding immunocytochemistry
  • Visual cortex


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