Sensory input arrives from thalamus in cortical layer (L) 4, which outputs predominantly to superficial layers. L4 to L2 thus constitutes one of the earliest cortical feedforward networks. Despite extensive study, the transformation performed by this network remains poorly understood. We use two-photon calcium imaging to record neural activity in L2-4 of primary vibrissal somatosensory cortex (vS1) as mice perform an object localization task with two whiskers. Touch responses sparsen and become more reliable from L4 to L2, with nearly half of the superficial touch response confined to ~1 % of excitatory neurons. These highly responsive neurons have broad receptive fields and can more accurately decode stimulus features. They participate disproportionately in ensembles, small subnetworks with elevated pairwise correlations. Thus, from L4 to L2, cortex transitions from distributed probabilistic coding to sparse and robust ensemble-based coding, resulting in more efficient and accurate representations.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)