Pyramidal neurons in layers 2/3 and 5 of primary somatosensory cortex (S1) exhibit somewhat modest synaptic plasticity after whisker input deprivation. Whether neurons involved at earlier steps of sensory processing show more or less plasticity has not yet been examined. Here, we used longitudinal in vivo two-photon microscopy to investigate dendritic spine dynamics in apical tufts of GFP-expressing layer 4 (L4) pyramidal neurons of the vibrissal (barrel) S1 after unilateral whisker trimming. First, we characterize the molecular, anatomical, and electrophysiological properties of identified L4 neurons in Ebf2-Cre transgenic mice. Next, we show that input deprivation results in a substantial (∼50%) increase in the rate of dendritic spine loss, acutely (4–8 d) after whisker trimming. This robust synaptic plasticity in L4 suggests that primary thalamic recipient pyramidal neurons in S1 may be particularly sensitive to changes in sensory experience. Ebf2-Cre mice thus provide a useful tool for future assessment of initial steps of sensory processing in S1.
- Barrel cortex
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