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J Comp Neurol. 2015 Oct 1;523(14):2111-26. doi: 10.1002/cne.23781. Epub 2015 May 12.

Postnatal accumulation of intermediate filaments in the cat and human primary visual cortex.

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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, Dalhousie University, Life Sciences Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, B3H 4R2.


A principal characteristic of the mammalian visual system is its high capacity for plasticity in early postnatal development during a time commonly referred to as the critical period. The progressive diminution of plasticity with age is linked to the emergence of a collection of molecules called molecular brakes that reduce plasticity and stabilize neural circuits modified by earlier visual experiences. Manipulation of braking molecules either pharmacologically or though experiential alteration enhances plasticity and promotes recovery from visual impairment. The stability of neural circuitry is increased by intermediate filamentous proteins of the cytoskeleton such as neurofilaments and α-internexin. We examined levels of these intermediate filaments within cat and human primary visual cortex (V1) across development to determine whether they accumulate following a time course consistent with a molecular brake. In both species, levels of intermediate filaments increased considerably throughout early postnatal life beginning shortly after the peak of the critical period, with the highest levels measured in adults. Neurofilament phosphorylation was also observed to increase throughout development, raising the possibility that posttranslational modification by phosphorylation reduces plasticity due to increased protein stability. Finally, an approach to scale developmental time points between species is presented that compares the developmental profiles of intermediate filaments between cats and humans. Although causality between intermediate filaments and plasticity was not directly tested in this study, their accumulation relative to the critical period indicates that they may contribute to the decline in plasticity with age, and may also constrain the success of treatments for visual disorders applied in adulthood.


RRID:AB_305807; RRID:AB_306083; RRID:AB_509998; RRID:AB_94285; molecular brake; neurofilament; phosphorylation; plasticity; α-internexin

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