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Dendritic organization of sensory input to cortical neurons in vivo

Nature volume 464, pages 13071312 (29 April 2010) | Download Citation

Abstract

In sensory cortex regions, neurons are tuned to specific stimulus features. For example, in the visual cortex, many neurons fire predominantly in response to moving objects of a preferred orientation. However, the characteristics of the synaptic input that cortical neurons receive to generate their output firing pattern remain unclear. Here we report a novel approach for the visualization and functional mapping of sensory inputs to the dendrites of cortical neurons in vivo. By combining high-speed two-photon imaging with electrophysiological recordings, we identify local subthreshold calcium signals that correspond to orientation-specific synaptic inputs. We find that even inputs that share the same orientation preference are widely distributed throughout the dendritic tree. At the same time, inputs of different orientation preference are interspersed, so that adjacent dendritic segments are tuned to distinct orientations. Thus, orientation-tuned neurons can compute their characteristic firing pattern by integrating spatially distributed synaptic inputs coding for multiple stimulus orientations.

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to B. Sakmann for discussions and to Y. Kovalchuk for help in the initial experiments. This work was supported by grants from the DFG (to A.K.) and the Friedrich Schiedel Foundation. A.K. is a Carl von Linde Senior Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study of the TUM. H.J., N.L.R. and X.C. were supported by the DFG (IRTG 1373).

Author information

Author notes

    • Hongbo Jia
    •  & Nathalie L. Rochefort

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Institute of Neuroscience and Center for Integrated Protein Science, Technical University Munich, Biedersteinerstrasse 29, 80802 Munich, Germany

    • Hongbo Jia
    • , Nathalie L. Rochefort
    • , Xiaowei Chen
    •  & Arthur Konnerth

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Contributions

H.J., N.L.R. and X.C. carried out the experiments. H.J., N.L.R. and A.K. performed the analysis. A.K. designed the study and wrote the manuscript with the help of all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Arthur Konnerth.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Methods and References and Supplementary Figures 1-3 with legends.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature08947

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