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Focused Review ARTICLE

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Beyond the cortical column: abundance and physiology of horizontal connections imply a strong role for inputs from the surround

  • 1 Bernstein Center Freiburg, Neurobiology and Biophysics, Faculty of Biology, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
  • 2 Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience and Neuroinformatics and Theoretical Neuroscience, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany

Current concepts of cortical information processing and most cortical network models largely rest on the assumption that well-studied properties of local synaptic connectivity are sufficient to understand the generic properties of cortical networks. This view seems to be justified by the observation that the vertical connectivity within local volumes is strong, whereas horizontally, the connection probability between pairs of neurons drops sharply with distance. Recent neuroanatomical studies, however, have emphasized that a substantial fraction of synapses onto neocortical pyramidal neurons stems from cells outside the local volume. Here, we discuss recent findings on the signal integration from horizontal inputs, showing that they could serve as a substrate for reliable and temporally precise signal propagation. Quantification of connection probabilities and parameters of synaptic physiology as a function of lateral distance indicates that horizontal projections constitute a considerable fraction, if not the majority, of inputs from within the cortical network. Taking these non-local horizontal inputs into account may dramatically change our current view on cortical information processing.

Keywords: reliability, synaptic transmission, dendritic integration, cortical column, temporal coding

Citation: Boucsein C, Nawrot MP, Schnepel P and Aertsen A (2011) Beyond the cortical column: abundance and physiology of horizontal connections imply a strong role for inputs from the surround. Front. Neurosci. 5:32. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2011.00032

Received: 23 November 2010; Paper pending published: 10 January 2011;
Accepted: 28 February 2011; Published online: 01 April 2011.

Edited by:

Michael Brecht, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany

Reviewed by:

Dirk Feldmeyer, RWTH Aachen University, Germany
Gordon M. G. Shepherd, Northwestern University, USA
Per Jesper Sjöström, University College London, UK

Copyright: © 2011 Boucsein, Nawrot, Schnepel and Aertsen. This is an open-access article subject to an exclusive license agreement between the authors and Frontiers Media SA, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original authors and source are credited.

*Correspondence: Clemens Boucsein, University of Freiburg, Bernstein Center Freiburg and Neurobiology & Biophysics, Schänzlestrasse 1, D-79104 Freiburg, D-79104, Germany, clemens.boucsein@biologie.uni-freiburg.de

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