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Neuron. 2012 Apr 12;74(1):193-205. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2012.01.032.

Effects of long-term visual experience on responses of distinct classes of single units in inferior temporal cortex.

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Department of Neuroscience, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Primates can learn to recognize a virtually limitless number of visual objects. A candidate neural substrate for this adult plasticity is the inferior temporal cortex (ITC). Using a large stimulus set, we explored the impact that long-term experience has on the response properties of two classes of neurons in ITC: broad-spiking (putative excitatory) cells and narrow-spiking (putative inhibitory) cells. We found that experience increased maximum responses of putative excitatory neurons but had the opposite effect on maximum responses of putative inhibitory neurons, an observation that helps to reconcile contradictory reports regarding the presence and direction of this effect. In addition, we found that experience reduced the average stimulus-evoked response in both cell classes, but this decrease was much more pronounced in putative inhibitory units. This latter finding supports a potentially critical role of inhibitory neurons in detecting and initiating the cascade of events underlying adult neural plasticity in ITC.

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