Detailed morphological study of layer 2 and layer 3 pyramidal neurons in the anterior cingulate cortex of the rhesus monkey
The anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) can influence emotional and motivational states in primates by its dense connections with many neocortical and subcortical regions. Pyramidal neurons serve as the basic building blocks of these neocortical circuits, which have been extensively studied in other brain regions, but their morphological and electrophysiological properties in the primate ACC are not well understood. In this study, we used whole-cell patch clamp and high-resolution laser scanning confocal microscopy to reveal the general electrophysiological properties and detailed morphological features of layer 2 and 3 pyramidal neurons in ACC (area 24/32) of the rhesus monkey. Neurons from both layers had similar passive membrane properties and action potential properties. Morphologically, dendrites of layer 3 ACC neurons were more complex than those of layer 2 neurons, by having dendrites with longer total dendritic lengths, more branch points and dendritic segments, spanning larger convex hull volumes. This difference in total dendritic morphology was mainly due to the apical dendrites. In contrast, the basal dendrites displayed mostly similar features between the two groups of neurons. However, while apical dendrites extend to the same layer (layer 1), the basal dendrites of layer 3 extended into deeper layers than layer 2 because of the difference in soma-pia distance. Thus, basal dendrites of the two groups of neurons receive different laminar inputs. Analysis of spines showed that more spines were found in neurons of layer 3 apical dendritic arbors than layer 2 neurons. However, the apical spine densities were similar between neurons in the two layers. Thus, while higher spine number suggests that layer 3 neurons receive more excitatory input than layer 2 neurons, the similar spine density suggests similar spatial and temporal summation of these inputs. The combined effects of increased number of excitatory input and higher dendritic complexity in layer 3 than in layer 2 ACC neurons suggest the additional information received by layer 3 neurons, especially in the apical dendrites, might undergo more complex integration.