[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Increasing evidence shows that sensory experience is not necessary for initial patterning of neural circuitry but is essential for maintenance and plasticity. We have investigated the role of visual experience in development and plasticity of inhibitory synapses in the retinocollicular pathway of an altricial rodent, the Syrian hamster. We reported previously that visual receptive field (RF) refinement in superior colliculus (SC) occurs with the same time course in long-term dark-reared (LTDR) as in normally-reared hamsters, but RFs in LTDR animals become unrefined in adulthood. Here we provide support for the hypothesis that this failure to maintain refined RFs into adulthood results from inhibitory plasticity at both pre- and postsynaptic levels. Iontophoretic application of gabazine, a GABA(A) receptor antagonist, or muscimol, a GABA(A) receptor agonist, had less of an effect on RF size and excitability of adult LTDR animals than in short-term DR animals or normal animals. Consistent with these physiological observations, the percentage of GABA-immunoreactive neurons was significantly decreased in the SC of LTDR animals compared to normal animals and to animals exposed to a normal light cycle early in development, before LTDR. Thus GABAergic inhibition in the SC of LTDR animals is reduced, weakening the inhibitory surround and contributing significantly to the visual deprivation-induced enlargement of RFs seen. Our results argue that early visually-driven activity is necessary to maintain the inhibitory circuitry intrinsic to the adult SC and to protect against the consequences of visual deprivation.
European Journal of Neuroscience 11/2010; 33(1):58-68. · 3.75 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The role of sensory experience in the development and plasticity of the visual system has been widely studied. It has generally been reported that once animals reach adulthood, experience-dependent visual plasticity is reduced. We have found that visual experience is not needed for the refinement of receptive fields (RFs) in the superior colliculus (SC) but instead is necessary to maintain them in adulthood (Carrasco et al., 2005). Without light exposure, RFs in SC of hamsters refine by postnatal day 60 as usual but then enlarge, presumably reducing visual acuity. In this study we examine whether a brief period of light exposure during early postnatal development would be sufficient to prevent RF enlargement in adulthood, and whether prolonged light exposure in adulthood could reverse the deprivation-induced increase in RF size. We found that an early postnatal period of at least 30 days of visual experience was sufficient to maintain refined RFs in the adult SC. Prolonged visual experience in adulthood could not reverse the RF enlargement resulting from long-term dark rearing, reflecting a loss of plasticity at this age. Our results suggest that, unlike in visual cortex, dark rearing does not indefinitely extend the critical period of plasticity in SC. Rather, there is a limited time window when early experience can protect RFs from the detrimental effects of visual deprivation in adulthood. These results contribute to understanding adult brain plasticity and argue for the importance of early visual experience in protecting the adult visual system.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Sensory deprivation is thought to have an adverse effect on visual development and to prolong the critical period for plasticity. Once the animal reaches adulthood, however, synaptic connectivity is understood to be largely stable. We reported previously that N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor blockade in the superior colliculus of the Syrian hamster prevents refinement of receptive fields (RFs) in normal or compressed retinotopic projections, resulting in target neurons with enlarged RFs but normal stimulus tuning. Here we asked whether visually driven activity is necessary for refinement or maintenance of retinotopic maps or if spontaneous activity is sufficient. Animals were deprived of light either in adulthood only or from birth until the time of recording. We found that dark rearing from birth to 2 mo of age had no effect on the timing and extent of RF refinement as assessed with single unit extracellular recordings. Visual deprivation in adulthood also had no effect. Continuous dark rearing from birth into adulthood, however, resulted in a progressive loss of refinement, resulting in enlarged, asymmetric receptive fields and altered surround suppression in adulthood. Thus unlike in visual cortex, early visually driven activity is not necessary for refinement of receptive fields during development, but is required to maintain refined visual projections in adulthood. Because the map can refine normally in the dark, these results argue against a deprivation-induced delay in critical period closure, and suggest instead that early visual deprivation leaves target neurons more vulnerable to deprivation that continues after refinement.
Journal of Neurophysiology 10/2005; 94(3):1962-70. · 3.30 Impact Factor