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Genes Brain Behav. 2008 Nov;7(8):915-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2008.00431.x. Epub 2008 Aug 12.

Genetic control of experience-dependent plasticity in the visual cortex.

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Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Meibergdreef 47, 1105 BA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Depriving one eye of visual experience during a sensitive period of development results in a shift in ocular dominance (OD) in the primary visual cortex (V1). To assess the heritability of this form of cortical plasticity and identify the responsible gene loci, we studied the influence of monocular deprivation on OD in a large number of recombinant inbred mouse strains derived from mixed C57BL/6J and DBA/2J backgrounds (BXD). The strength of imaged intrinsic signal responses in V1 to visual stimuli was strongly heritable as were various elements of OD plasticity. This has important implications for the use of mice of mixed genetic backgrounds for studying OD plasticity. C57BL/6J showed the most significant shift in OD, while some BXD strains did not show any shift at all. Interestingly, the increase in undeprived ipsilateral eye responses was not correlated to the decrease in deprived contralateral eye responses, suggesting that the size of these components of OD plasticity are not genetically controlled by only a single mechanism. We identified a quantitative trait locus regulating the change in response to the deprived eye. The locus encompasses 13 genes, two of which--Stch and Nrip1--contain missense polymorphisms. The expression levels of Stch and to a lesser extent Nrip1 in whole brain correlate with the trait identifying them as novel candidate plasticity genes.

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