Local Potential Connectivity in Cat Primary Visual Cortex

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Time invariant description of synaptic connectivity in cortical circuits may be precluded by the ongoing growth and retraction of dendritic spines accompanied by the formation and elimination of synapses. On the other hand, the spatial arrangement of axonal and dendritic branches appears stable. This suggests that an invariant description of connectivity can be cast in terms of potential synapses, which are locations in the neuropil where an axon branch of one neuron is proximal to a dendritic branch of another neuron. In this paper, we attempt to reconstruct the potential connectivity in local cortical circuits of the cat primary visual cortex (V1). Based on multiple single-neuron reconstructions of axonal and dendritic arbors in 3 dimensions, we evaluate the expected number of potential synapses and the probability of potential connectivity among excitatory (pyramidal and spiny stellate) neurons and inhibitory basket cells. The results provide a quantitative description of structural organization of local cortical circuits. For excitatory neurons from different cortical layers, we compute local domains, which contain their potentially pre- and postsynaptic excitatory partners. These domains have columnar shapes with laminar specific radii and are roughly of the size of the ocular dominance column. Therefore, connections between most excitatory neurons in the ocular dominance column can be implemented by local synaptogenesis. Structural connectivity involving inhibitory basket cells is generally weaker than excitatory connectivity. Here, only nearby neurons are capable of establishing more than one potential synapse, implying that within the ocular dominance column these connections have more limited potential for circuit remodeling.

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