Motor cortex (M1) is classically considered an agranular area, lacking a distinct layer 4 (L4). Here, we tested the idea that M1, despite lacking a cytoarchitecturally visible L4, nevertheless possesses its equivalent in the form of excitatory neurons with input-output circuits like those of L4 neurons in sensory areas. Consistent with this idea, we found that neurons located in a thin laminar zone at the L3/5A border in the forelimb area of mouse M1 have multiple L4-like synaptic connections: excitatory input from thalamus, largely unidirectional excitatory outputs to L2/3 pyramidal neurons, and relatively weak long-range corticocortical inputs and outputs. M1-L4 neurons were electrophysiologically diverse but morphologically uniform, with pyramidal-type dendritic arbors and locally ramifying axons including branches extending into L2/3. Our findings therefore identify pyramidal neurons in M1 with the expected prototypical circuit properties of excitatory L4 neurons, and question the traditional assumption that motor cortex lacks this layer.
Animal experimentation: This study was performed in strict accordance with the recommendations in the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals of the National Institutes of Health. All of the animals were handled according to approved institutional animal care and use committee (IACUC) protocols (1248, 1331, 3310) of Northwestern University.
- Sacha B Nelson, Brandeis University, United States
© 2014, Yamawaki et al.
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Consumption of food and water is tightly regulated by the nervous system to maintain internal nutrient homeostasis. Although generally considered independently, interactions between hunger and thirst drives are important to coordinate competing needs. In Drosophila, four neurons called the interoceptive subesophageal zone neurons (ISNs) respond to intrinsic hunger and thirst signals to oppositely regulate sucrose and water ingestion. Here, we investigate the neural circuit downstream of the ISNs to examine how ingestion is regulated based on internal needs. Utilizing the recently available fly brain connectome, we find that the ISNs synapse with a novel cell-type bilateral T-shaped neuron (BiT) that projects to neuroendocrine centers. In vivo neural manipulations revealed that BiT oppositely regulates sugar and water ingestion. Neuroendocrine cells downstream of ISNs include several peptide-releasing and peptide-sensing neurons, including insulin producing cells (IPCs), crustacean cardioactive peptide (CCAP) neurons, and CCHamide-2 receptor isoform RA (CCHa2R-RA) neurons. These neurons contribute differentially to ingestion of sugar and water, with IPCs and CCAP neurons oppositely regulating sugar and water ingestion, and CCHa2R-RA neurons modulating only water ingestion. Thus, the decision to consume sugar or water occurs via regulation of a broad peptidergic network that integrates internal signals of nutritional state to generate nutrient-specific ingestion.
Complex behaviors depend on the coordinated activity of neural ensembles in interconnected brain areas. The behavioral function of such coordination, often measured as co-fluctuations in neural activity across areas, is poorly understood. One hypothesis is that rapidly varying co-fluctuations may be a signature of moment-by-moment task-relevant influences of one area on another. We tested this possibility for error-corrective adaptation of birdsong, a form of motor learning which has been hypothesized to depend on the top-down influence of a higher-order area, LMAN (lateral magnocellular nucleus of the anterior nidopallium), in shaping moment-by-moment output from a primary motor area, RA (robust nucleus of the arcopallium). In paired recordings of LMAN and RA in singing birds, we discovered a neural signature of a top-down influence of LMAN on RA, quantified as an LMAN-leading co-fluctuation in activity between these areas. During learning, this co-fluctuation strengthened in a premotor temporal window linked to the specific movement, sequential context, and acoustic modification associated with learning. Moreover, transient perturbation of LMAN activity specifically within this premotor window caused rapid occlusion of pitch modifications, consistent with LMAN conveying a temporally localized motor-biasing signal. Combined, our results reveal a dynamic top-down influence of LMAN on RA that varies on the rapid timescale of individual movements and is flexibly linked to contexts associated with learning. This finding indicates that inter-area co-fluctuations can be a signature of dynamic top-down influences that support complex behavior and its adaptation.