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Sensory stimuli are encoded differently across cortical layers and it is unknown how response characteristics relate to the morphological identity of responding cells. We therefore juxtasomally recorded action potential (AP) patterns from excitatory cells in layer (L) 2/3, L4, L5 and L6 of rat barrel cortex in response to a standard stimulus (e.g. repeated deflection of single whiskers in the caudal direction). Subsequent single-cell filling with biocytin allowed for post hoc identification of recorded cells. We report three major conclusions. First, sensory-evoked responses were layer- and cell-type-specific but always < 1 AP per stimulus, indicating low AP rates for the entire cortical column. Second, response latencies from L4, L5B and L6 were comparable and thus a whisker deflection is initially represented simultaneously in these layers. Finally, L5 thick-tufted cells dominated the cortical AP output following sensory stimulation, suggesting that these cells could direct sensory guided behaviours.

Original publication




Journal article


J Physiol

Publication Date





139 - 154


Action Potentials, Animals, Electrophysiology, Evoked Potentials, Somatosensory, Female, Lysine, Male, Neurons, Afferent, Rats, Rats, Wistar, Reaction Time, Somatosensory Cortex, Vibrissae