Hierarchical excitatory synaptic connectivity in mouse olfactory cortex

Matthew J. McGinley, Gary L. Westbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Topological motifs in synaptic connectivity-such as the cortical column-are fundamental to processing of information in cortical structures. However, the mesoscale topology of cortical networks beyond columns remains largely unknown. In the olfactory cortex, which lacks an obvious columnar structure, sensory-evoked patterns of activity have failed to reveal organizational principles of the network and its structure has been considered to be random. We probed the excitatory network in the mouse olfactory cortex using variance analysis of paired whole-cell recording in olfactory cortex slices. On a given trial, triggered network-wide bursts in disinhibited slices had remarkably similar time courses in widely separated and randomly selected cell pairs of pyramidal neurons despite significant trial-to-trial variability within each neuron. Simulated excitatory network models with random topologies only partially reproduced the experimental burst-variance patterns. Network models with local (columnar) or distributed subnetworks, which have been predicted as the basis of encoding odor objects, were also inconsistent with the experimental data, showing greater variability between cells than across trials. Rather, network models with power-law and especially hierarchical connectivity showed the best fit. Our results suggest that distributed subnetworks are weak or absent in the olfactory cortex, whereas a hierarchical excitatory topology may predominate. A hierarchical excitatory network organization likely underlies burst generation in this epileptogenic region, and may also shape processing of sensory information in the olfactory cortex.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)16193-16198
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number40
StatePublished - Oct 1 2013


  • Endopiriform nucleus
  • Functional connectome
  • Network topology
  • Piriform cortex
  • Small world

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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