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On variability in the density of corticocortical and thalamocortical connections

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jack Scannell

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Abstract

Variability is an important but neglected aspect of connectional neuroanatomy. The quantitative density of the 'same' corticocortical or thalamocortical connection may vary by over two orders of magnitude between different injections of the same tracer. At present, however, the frequency distribution of connection densities is unknown. Therefore, it is unclear what kind of sampling strategies or statistical methods are appropriate for quantitative studies of connectivity. Nor is it clear if the measured variability represents differences between subjects, or if it is simply a consequence of intra-individual differences resulting from experimental technique and the exact placement of tracers relative to local spatial and laminar variation in connectivity. We used quantitative measurements of the density of a large number of corticocortical and thalamocortical connections from our own laboratories and from the literature. Variability in the density of given corticocortical and thalamocortical connections is high, with the standard deviation of density proportional to the mean. The frequency distribution is close to exponential. Therefore, analysis methods relying on the normal distribution are not appropriate. We provide an appendix that gives simple statistical guidance for samples drawn from exponentially distributed data. For a given corticocortical or thalamocortical connection density, between-individual standard deviation is 0.85 to 1.25 times the within-individual standard deviation. Therefore, much of the variability reported in conventional neuroanatomical studies (with one tracer deposited per animal) is due to within-individual factors. We also find that strong, but not weak, corticocortical connections are substantially more variable than thalamocortical connections. We propose that the near exponential distribution of connection densities is a simple consequence of 'patchy' connectivity. We anticipate that connection data will be well described by the negative binomial, a class of distribution that applies to events occurring in clumped or patchy substrates. Local patchiness may be a feature of all corticocortical connections and could explain why strong corticocortical connections are more variable than strong thalamocortical connections. This idea is supported by the columnar patterns of many corticocortical but few thalamocortical connections in the literature.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Scannell JW, Grant S, Payne BR, Baddeley R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences

Year: 2000

Volume: 355

Issue: 1393

Pages: 21-35

ISSN (print): 0962-8436

ISSN (electronic): 1471-2970

Publisher: The Royal Society Publishing

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2000.0547

DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2000.0547

PubMed id: 10703042


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