The mammalian cerebral cortex consists of multiple areas specialized for processing information for many different sensory modalities. Although the basic structure is similar for each cortical area, specialized neural connections likely mediate unique information processing requirements. Relative to primary visual (V1) and somatosensory (S1) cortices, little is known about the intrinsic connectivity of primary auditory cortex (A1). To better understand the flow of information from the thalamus to and through rat A1, we made use of a rapid, high-throughput screening method exploiting laser-induced uncaging of glutamate to construct excitatory input maps of individual neurons. We found that excitatory inputs to layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons were similar to those in V1 and S1; these cells received strong excitation primarily from layers 2- 4. Both anatomical and physiological observations, however, indicate that inputs and outputs of layer 4 excitatory neurons in A1 contrast with those in V1 and S1. Layer 2/3 pyramids in A1 have substantial axonal arbors in layer 4, and photostimulation demonstrates that these pyramids can connect to layer 4 excitatory neurons. Furthermore, most or all of these layer 4 excitatory neurons project out of the local cortical circuit. Unlike S1 and V1, where feedback to layer 4 is mediated exclusively by indirect local circuits involving layer 2/3 projections to deep layers and deep feedback to layer 4, layer 4 of A1 integrates thalamic and strong layer 4 recurrent excitatory input with relatively direct feedback from layer 2/3 and provides direct cortical output.
- Auditory cortex