Neocortical pyramidal neurons with somata in layers 5 and 6 are among the most visually striking and enigmatic neurons in the brain. These deep-layer pyramidal neurons (DLPNs) integrate a plethora of cortical and extracortical synaptic inputs along their impressive dendritic arbors. The pattern of cortical output to both local and long-distance targets is sculpted by the unique physiological properties of specific DLPN subpopulations. Here we revisit two broad DLPN subpopulations: those that send their axons within the telencephalon (intratelencephalic neurons) and those that project to additional target areas outside the telencephalon (extratelencephalic neurons). While neuroscientists across many subdisciplines have characterized the intrinsic and synaptic physiological properties of DLPN subpopulations, our increasing ability to selectively target and manipulate these output neuron subtypes advances our understanding of their distinct functional contributions. This Viewpoints article summarizes our current knowledge about DLPNs and highlights recent work elucidating the functional differences between DLPN subpopulations.
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