The whisker region in the rodent primary motor (MI) cortex receives dense projections from neurons aligned with the layer IV septa in the whisker region of the primary somatosensory (SI) cortex. To compare whisker-induced responses in MI with respect to the SI responses in the septa and adjoining barrel regions, we used several experimental approaches in anesthetized rats. Reversible inactivation of SI and the surrounding cortex suppressed the magnitude of whisker-induced responses in the MI whisker region by 80%. Subsequent laminar analysis of MI responses to electrical or mechanical stimulation of the whisker pad revealed that the most responsive MI neurons were located ≥1.0 mm below the pia. When layer IV neurons in SI were recorded simultaneously with deep MI neurons during low-frequency (2-Hz) deflections of the whiskers, the neurons in the SI barrels responded 2-6 ms earlier than those in MI. Barrel neurons displayed similar response latencies at all stimulus frequencies, but the response latencies in MI and the SI septa increased significantly when the whiskers were deflected at frequencies of 8 Hz. Finally, cross-correlation analysis of neuronal activity in SI and MI revealed greater amounts of timelocked coordination among septa-MI neuron pairs than among barrel-MI neuron pairs. These results suggest that the somatosensory corticocortical inputs to MI cortex convey information processed by the SI septal circuits.
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