Journal of Computational Neuroscience

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 271–282 | Cite as

Computational Constraints that may have Favoured the Lamination of Sensory Cortex

  • Alessandro Treves


At the transition from early reptilian ancestors to primordial mammals, the areas of sensory cortex that process topographic modalities acquire the laminar structure of isocortex. A prominent step in lamination is granulation, whereby the formerly unique principal layer of pyramidal cells is split by the insertion of a new layer of excitatory, but intrinsic, granule cells, layer IV. I consider the hypothesis that granulation, and the differentiation between supra- and infra-granular pyramidal layers, may be advantageous to support fine topography in their sensory maps. Fine topography implies a generic distinction between “where” information, explicitly mapped on the cortical sheet, and “what” information, represented in a distributed fashion as a distinct firing pattern across neurons. These patterns can be stored on recurrent collaterals in the cortex, and such memory can help substantially in the analysis of current sensory input. The simulation of a simplified network model demonstrates that a non-laminated patch of cortex must compromise between transmitting “where” information or retrieving “what” information. The simulation of a modified model including differentiation of a granular layer shows a modest but significant quantitative advantage, expressed as a less severe trade-off between “what” and “where”. The further connectivity differentiation between infra-granular and supra-granular pyramidal layers is shown to match the mix of “what” and “where” information optimal for their respective target structures.

cortical layers mammals isocortex neocortex cortical organization localization attractor dynamics recurrent collaterals 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alessandro Treves
    • 1
  1. 1.SISSA—Programme in NeuroscienceTriesteItaly

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