Anatomical organization and spatiotemporal firing patterns of layer 3 neurons in the rat medial entorhinal cortex


  • Q. Tang
  • C.L. Ebbesen
  • J.I. Sanguinetti-Scheck
  • P. Preston-Ferrer
  • A. Gundlfinger
  • J. Winterer
  • P. Beed
  • S. Ray
  • R. Naumann
  • D. Schmitz
  • M. Brecht
  • A. Burgalossi


  • Journal of Neuroscience


  • J Neurosci 35 (36): 12346-12354


  • Layer 3 of the medial entorhinal cortex is a major gateway from the neocortex to the hippocampus. Here we addressed structure-function relationships in medial entorhinal cortex layer 3 by combining anatomical analysis with juxtacellular identification of single neurons in freely behaving rats. Anatomically, layer 3 appears as a relatively homogeneous cell sheet. Dual-retrograde neuronal tracing experiments indicate a large overlap between layer 3 pyramidal populations, which project to ipsilateral hippocampus, and the contralateral medial entorhinal cortex. These cells were intermingled within layer 3, and had similar morphological and intrinsic electrophysiological properties. Dendritic trees of layer 3 neurons largely avoided the calbindin-positive patches in layer 2. Identification of layer 3 neurons during spatial exploration (n = 17) and extracellular recordings (n = 52) pointed to homogeneous spatial discharge patterns. Layer 3 neurons showed only weak spiking theta rhythmicity and sparse head-direction selectivity. A majority of cells (50 of 69) showed no significant spatial modulation. All of the ∼28% of neurons that carried significant amounts of spatial information (19 of 69) discharged in irregular spatial patterns. Thus, layer 3 spatiotemporal firing properties are remarkably different from those of layer 2, where theta rhythmicity is prominent and spatially modulated cells often discharge in grid or border patterns.