Pyramidal Cell Subtypes and Their Synaptic Connections in Layer 5 of Rat Frontal Cortex

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The frontal cortical areas make a coordinated response that generates appropriate behavior commands, using individual local circuits with corticostriatal and corticocortical connections in longer time scales than sensory areas. In secondary motor cortex (M2), situated between the prefrontal and primary motor areas, major subtypes of layer 5 corticostriatal cells are crossed-corticostriatal (CCS) cells innervating both sides of striatum, and corticopontine (CPn) cells projecting to the ipsilateral striatum and pontine nuclei. CCS cells innervate CPn cells unidirectionally: the former are therefore hierarchically higher than the latter among L5 corticostriatal cells. CCS cells project directly to both frontal and nonfrontal areas. On the other hand, CPn cells innervate the thalamus and layer 1a of frontal areas, where thalamic fibers relaying basal ganglia outputs are distributed. Thus, CCS cells can make activities of frontal areas in concert with those of nonfrontal area using corticocortical loops, whereas CPn cells are more involved in closed corticostriatal loops than CCS cells. Since reciprocal connections between CPn cells with facilitatory synapses may be related to persistent activity, CPn cells play a key role of longer time constant processes in corticostriatal as well as in corticocortical loops between the frontal areas.

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