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Volume 563 Issue 7729, 1 November 2018

Action potential

Two papers in this week’s issue examine the remarkable diversity found among neurons in the brain. Bosiljka Tasic and her colleagues used deep, single-cell RNA-sequencing on 23,822 cells from across the visual and motor cortices in mice to reveal 133 cell types based on gene-expression profiles. They found that nearly all types of inhibitory neurons were shared across the two regions, whereas most types of excitatory neurons were area-specific. In related work, Karel Svoboda, Michael Economo and their colleagues demonstrate that several of these cell types, those corresponding to pyramidal tract neurons (pictured) — a particular subpopulation of excitatory neurons — differ in other ways beyond gene expression. They showed that different pyramidal tract cell types each connect to a unique set of brain regions and communicate specific signals involved in the preparation and initiation of motion, respectively. Together, these studies demonstrate the power of such data sets to reveal the intricate details of neuronal function.

Cover image: Michael Economo/Jayaram Chandrashekar

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