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J Neurophysiol. 2016 Apr;115(4):2199-213. doi: 10.1152/jn.00812.2015. Epub 2016 Feb 3.

Synaptic refinement during development and its effect on slow-wave activity: a computational study.

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Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin; and Neuroscience Training Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin; and.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, Wisconsin; and


Recent evidence suggests that synaptic refinement, the reorganization of synapses and connections without significant change in their number or strength, is important for the development of the visual system of juvenile rodents. Other evidence in rodents and humans shows that there is a marked drop in sleep slow-wave activity (SWA) during adolescence. Slow waves reflect synchronous transitions of neuronal populations between active and inactive states, and the amount of SWA is influenced by the connection strength and organization of cortical neurons. In this study, we investigated whether synaptic refinement could account for the observed developmental drop in SWA. To this end, we employed a large-scale neural model of primary visual cortex and sections of the thalamus, capable of producing realistic slow waves. In this model, we reorganized intralaminar connections according to experimental data on synaptic refinement: during prerefinement, local connections between neurons were homogenous, whereas in postrefinement, neurons connected preferentially to neurons with similar receptive fields and preferred orientations. Synaptic refinement led to a drop in SWA and to changes in slow-wave morphology, consistent with experimental data. To test whether learning can induce synaptic refinement, intralaminar connections were equipped with spike timing-dependent plasticity. Oriented stimuli were presented during a learning period, followed by homeostatic synaptic renormalization. This led to activity-dependent refinement accompanied again by a decline in SWA. Together, these modeling results show that synaptic refinement can account for developmental changes in SWA. Thus sleep SWA may be used to track noninvasively the reorganization of cortical connections during development.


cortical organization; sleep; visual cortex

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