Experience-Enabled Enhancement of Adult Visual Cortex Function
We previously reported in adult mice that visuomotor experience during monocular deprivation (MD) augmented enhancement of visual-cortex-dependent behavior through the non-deprived eye (NDE) during deprivation, and enabled enhanced function to persist after MD. We investigated the physiological substrates of this experience-enabled form of adult cortical plasticity by measuring visual behavior and visually evoked potentials (VEPs) in binocular visual cortex of the same mice before, during, and after MD. MD on its own potentiated VEPs contralateral to the NDE during MD and shifted ocular dominance (OD) in favor of the NDE in both hemispheres. Whereas we expected visuomotor experience during MD to augment these effects, instead enhanced responses contralateral to the NDE, and the OD shift ipsilateral to the NDE were attenuated. However, in the same animals, we measured NMDA receptor-dependent VEP potentiation ipsilateral to the NDE during MD, which persisted after MD. The results indicate that visuomotor experience during adult MD leads to enduring enhancement of behavioral function, not simply by amplifying MD-induced changes in cortical OD, but through an independent process of increasing NDE drive in ipsilateral visual cortex. Because the plasticity is resident in the mature visual cortex and selectively effects gain of visual behavior through experiential means, it may have the therapeutic potential to target and non-invasively treat eye- or visual-field-specific cortical impairment.
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