The AG Schwarz was part of a collaboration with the group of Prof. Patrik Krieger from the Ruhr University of Bochum and published a paper on Cortical layer 6 control of sensory responses in higher-order thalamus.

The paper is already available online:

Ansorge J, Humanes-Valera D, Pauzin FP, Schwarz MK, Krieger P. (2020) Cortical layer 6 control of sensory responses in higher-order thalamus. J. Physiol., doi: 10.1113/JP279915.

Abstract: Thalamic activity is regulated by corticothalamic feedback from layers 5B and 6. The nature of these feedback systems differs, one difference being that whereas layer 5 provides ‘driver’ input, the layer 6 input is thought to be ‘modulatory’. To selectively study the importance of the layer 6 corticothalamic (L6 CT) projection, a transgenic mouse line was used in which layer 6 cells projecting to posterior medial thalamus (POm) were targeted for expression of channelrhodopsin-2 and in vivo electrophysiology recordings were done in urethane-anaesthetized mice. Pre- and postsynaptic targets were identified using tracing techniques and light-sheet microscopy in cleared intact brains. We find that optogenetic activation of this subtype of L6 CT cells (L6-Drd1) has little effect on cortical activity, but activates POm. Repetitive photoactivation of L6-Drd1 cells evoked a reliable response following every photoactivation, whereas in the connected POm area spiking was only initially increased. The response to repetitive whisker stimulation showed a similar pattern with only an initial increase in whisker-evoked spiking. Furthermore, the increase in whisker-evoked spiking with optogenetic activation of L6-Drd1 cells is additive, rather than multiplicative, causing even cells that in the absence of L6 activation produce relatively few spikes to increase their spiking substantially. We show that layer 6 corticothalamic cells can provide a strong, albeit rapidly depressing, input to POm. This type of cortical L6 activity could be important for rapid gain control in POm, rather than providing a modulation in phase with the whisking cycle.

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