Sensory deprivation during a critical period reduces spine motility and disrupts receptive field structure of layer 2/3 neurons in rat barrel cortex. To determine the locus of plasticity, we used laser scanning photostimulation, allowing us to rapidly map intracortical synaptic connectivity in brain slices. Layer 2/3 neurons differed in their spatial distributions of presynaptic partners: neurons directly above barrels received, on average, significantly more layer 4 input than those above the septa separating barrels. Complementary connectivity was found in deprived cortex: neurons above septa were now strongly coupled to septal regions, while connectivity between barrel regions and layer 2/3 was reduced. These results reveal competitive interactions between barrel and septal circuits in the establishment of precise intracortical circuits.
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