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Cereb Cortex. 2009 Feb;19(2):331-48. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhn085. Epub 2008 May 30.

Intrinsic signal imaging of deprivation-induced contraction of whisker representations in rat somatosensory cortex.

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  • 1Section of Neurobiology, Division of Biological Science, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0357, USA.


In classical sensory cortical map plasticity, the representation of deprived or underused inputs contracts within cortical sensory maps, whereas spared inputs expand. Expansion of spared inputs occurs preferentially into nearby cortical columns representing temporally correlated spared inputs, suggesting that expansion involves correlation-based learning rules at cross-columnar synapses. It is unknown whether deprived representations contract in a similar anisotropic manner, which would implicate similar learning rules and sites of plasticity. We briefly deprived D-row whiskers in 20-day-old rats, so that each deprived whisker had deprived (D-row) and spared (C- and E-row) neighbors. Intrinsic signal optical imaging revealed that D-row deprivation weakened and contracted the functional representation of deprived D-row whiskers in L2/3 of somatosensory (S1) cortex. Spared whisker representations did not strengthen or expand, indicating that D-row deprivation selectively engages the depression component of map plasticity. Contraction of deprived whisker representations was spatially uniform, with equal withdrawal from spared and deprived neighbors. Single-unit electrophysiological recordings confirmed these results, and showed substantial weakening of responses to deprived whiskers in layer 2/3 of S1, and modest weakening in L4. The observed isotropic contraction of deprived whisker representations during D-row deprivation is consistent with plasticity at intracolumnar, rather than cross-columnar, synapses.

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