Stéphane Pagès, Nicolas Chenouard, Ronan Chéreau, Vladimir Kouskoff, Frédéric Gambino, and Anthony Holtmaat
The organization of sensory maps in the cerebral cortex depends on experience, which drives homeostatic and long-term synaptic plasticity of cortico-cortical circuits. In the mouse primary somatosensory cortex (S1) afferents from the higher-order, posterior medial thalamic nucleus (POm) gate synaptic plasticity in layer (L) 2/3 pyramidal neurons via disinhibition and the production of dendritic plateau potentials. Here we address whether these thalamocortically mediated responses play a role in whisker map plasticity in S1. We find that trimming all but two whiskers causes a partial fusion of the representations of the two spared whiskers, concomitantly with an increase in the occurrence of POm-driven N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor-dependent plateau potentials. Blocking the plateau potentials restores the archetypical organization of the sensory map. Our results reveal a mechanism for experience-dependent cortical map plasticity in which higher-order thalamocortically mediated plateau potentials facilitate the fusion of normally segregated cortical representations.