Functional significance of synaptic terminal size in glutamatergic sensory pathways in thalamus and cortex

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Abstract

Glutamatergic pathways are a major information-carrying and -processing network of inputs in the brain. There is considerable evidence suggesting that glutamatergic pathways do not represent a homogeneous group and that they can be segregated into at least two broad categories. Class 1 glutamatergic inputs, which are suggested to be the main information carriers, are characterized by a number of unique synaptic and anatomical features, such as the large synaptic boutons with which they often terminate. On the other hand, Class 2 inputs, which are thought to play a modulatory role, are associated, amongst other features, with exclusively small terminal boutons. Here we summarize and briefly discuss these two classes of glutamatergic input and how their unique features, including their terminal bouton size and anatomy, are related to their suggested function.

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