Thalamocortical and intracortical inputs differentiate layer-specific mouse auditory corticocollicular neurons

Bernard J. Slater, Stacy K. Sons, Georgiy Yudintsev, Christopher M. Lee, Daniel A. Llano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long-range descending projections from the auditory cortex play key roles in shaping response properties in the inferior colliculus. The auditory corticocollicular projection is massive and heterogeneous, with axons emanating from cortical layers 5 and 6, and plays a key role in directing plastic changes in the inferior colliculus. However, little is known about the cortical and thalamic networks within which corticocollicular neurons are embedded. Here, laser scanning photostimulation glutamate uncaging and photoactivation of channelrhodopsin-2 were used to probe the local and long-range network differences between preidentified layer 5 and layer 6 auditory corticocollicular neurons from male and female mice in vitro. Layer 5 corticocollicular neurons were found to vertically integrate supragranular excitatory and inhibitory input to a substantially greater degree than their layer 6 counterparts. In addition, all layer 5 corticocollicular neurons received direct and large thalamic inputs from channelrhodopsin-2-labeled thalamocortical fibers, whereas such inputs were less common in layer 6 corticocollicular neurons. Finally, a new low-calcium/synaptic blockade approach to separate direct from indirect inputs using laser photostimulation was validated. These data demonstrate that layer 5 and 6 corticocollicular neurons receive distinct sets of cortical and thalamic inputs, supporting the hypothesis that they have divergent roles in modulating the inferior colliculus. Furthermore, the direct connection between the auditory thalamus and layer 5 corticocollicular neurons reveals a novel and rapid link connecting ascending and descending pathways. Significance Statement Descending projections from the cortex play a critical role in shaping the response properties of sensory neurons. The projection from the auditory cortex to the inferior colliculus is a massive, yet poorly understood, pathway emanating from two distinct cortical layers. Here we show, using a range of optical techniques, that mouse auditory corticocollicular neurons from different layers are embedded into different cortical and thalamic networks. Specifically, we observed that layer 5 corticocollicular neurons integrate information across cortical lamina and receive direct thalamic input. The latter connection provides a hyperdirect link between acoustic sensation and descending control, thus demonstrating a novel mechanism for rapid “online” modulation of sensory perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)256-270
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 9 2019


  • Auditory cortex
  • Corticofugal
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Laser photostimulation
  • Medial geniculate body
  • Thalamus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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