Clustered intrinsic connections in cat visual cortex
Journal of Neuroscience
The intrinsic connections of the cortex have long been known to run vertically, across the cortical layers. In the present study we have found that individual neurons in the cat primary visual cortex can communicate over suprisingly long distances horizontally (up to 4 mm), in directions parallel to the cortical surface. For all of the cells having widespread projections, the collaterals within their axonal fields were distributed in repeating clusters, with an average periodicity of 1 mm. This
... pattern of extensive clustered projections has been revealed by combining the techniques of intracellular recording and injection of horseradish peroxidase with three-dimensional computer graphic reconstructions. The clustering pattern was most apparent when the cells were rotated to present a view parallel to the cortical surface. The pattern was observed in more than half of the pyramidal and spiny stellate cells in the cortex and was seen in all cortical layers. In our sample, cells made distant connections within their own layer and/or within another layer. The axon of one cell had clusters covering the same area in two layers, and the clusters in the deeper layer were located under those in the upper layer, suggesting a relationship between the clustering phenomenon and columnar cortical architecture. Some pyramidal cells did not project into the white matter, forming intrinsic connections exclusively. Finally, the axonal fields of all our injected cells were asymmetric, extending for greater distances along one cortical axis than along the orthogonal axis. The axons appeared to cover areas of cortex representing a larger part of the visual field than that covered by the excitatory portion of the cell's own receptive field. These connections may be used to generate larger receptive fields or to produce the inhibitory flanks in other cells' receptive fields.