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The sensory cortex receives synaptic inputs from both first-order and higher-order thalamic nuclei. First-order inputs relay simple stimulus properties from the periphery, whereas higher-order inputs relay more complex response properties, provide contextual feedback, and modulate plasticity. Here, we reveal that a cortical neuron's higher-order input is determined by the type of progenitor from which it is derived during embryonic development. Within layer 4 (L4) of the mouse primary somatosensory cortex, neurons derived from intermediate progenitors receive stronger higher-order thalamic input and exhibit greater higher-order sensory responses. These effects result from differences in dendritic morphology and levels of the transcription factor Lhx2, which are specified by the L4 neuron's progenitor type. When this mechanism is disrupted, cortical circuits exhibit altered higher-order responses and sensory-evoked plasticity. Therefore, by following distinct trajectories, progenitor types generate diversity in thalamocortical circuitry and may provide a general mechanism for differentially routing information through the cortex.

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Rep

Publication Date





CP: Neuroscience, cortex, development, higher-order, in utero labelling, intermediate progenitor, lineage, optotagging, sensory-evoked plasticity, thalamus