The function of any brain structure depends on its neuronal composition and on the pattern of its extrinsic and intrinsic excitatory and inhibitory synaptic connectivity. In this issue of Cerebral Cortex, 3 related papers provide the most comprehensive analysis to date of the cellular and synaptic relationships of a standard cortical column in the somatosensory cortex of the Wistar rat. It is hoped that understanding normal composition of this archetypical cortical column may help to explain its functional operations, expose subtle pathological changes that could cause abnormal sensory and cognitive functions, and provide insight into evolution of the cerebral cortex.

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