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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2002 Dec 29;357(1428):1709-15.

Is there a thalamic component to experience-dependent cortical plasticity?

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School of Biosciences, Cardiff University, Museum Avenue, Cardiff CF10 3US, UK.


Sensory deprivation and injury to the peripheral nervous system both induce plasticity in the somatosensory system of adult animals, but in different places. While injury induces plasticity at several locations within the ascending somatosensory pathways, sensory deprivation appears only to affect the somatosensory cortex. Experiments have been performed to detect experience-dependent plasticity in thalamic receptive fields, thalamic domain sizes and convergence of thalamic receptive fields onto cortical cells. So far, plasticity has not been detected with sensory deprivation paradigms that cause substantial cortical plasticity. Part of the reason for the lack of thalamic plasticity may lie in the synaptic properties of afferent systems to the thalamus. A second factor may lie in the differences in the organization of cortical and thalamic circuits. Many deprivation paradigms induce plasticity by decreasing phasic lateral inhibition. Since lateral inhibition appears to be far weaker in the thalamus than the cortex, sensory deprivation may not cause large enough imbalances in thalamic activity to induce plasticity in the thalamus.

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