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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Oct 22;116(43):21812-21820. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1914661116. Epub 2019 Oct 7.

Experience-dependent structural plasticity at pre- and postsynaptic sites of layer 2/3 cells in developing visual cortex.

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Department of Physiology, Kavli Institute for Fundamental Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0444.
Department of Physiology, Kavli Institute for Fundamental Neuroscience, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0444


The developing brain can respond quickly to altered sensory experience by circuit reorganization. During a critical period in early life, neurons in the primary visual cortex rapidly lose responsiveness to an occluded eye and come to respond better to the open eye. While physiological and some of the molecular mechanisms of this process have been characterized, its structural basis, except for the well-known changes in the thalamocortical projection, remains obscure. To elucidate the relationship between synaptic remodeling and functional changes during this experience-dependent process, we used 2-photon microscopy to image synaptic structures of sparsely labeled layer 2/3 neurons in the binocular zone of mouse primary visual cortex. Anatomical changes at presynaptic and postsynaptic sites in mice undergoing monocular visual deprivation (MD) were compared to those in control mice with normal visual experience. We found that postsynaptic spines remodeled quickly in response to MD, with neurons more strongly dominated by the deprived eye losing more spines. These postsynaptic changes parallel changes in visual responses during MD and their recovery after restoration of binocular vision. In control animals with normal visual experience, the formation of presynaptic boutons increased during the critical period and then declined. MD affected bouton formation, but with a delay, blocking it after 3 d. These findings reveal intracortical anatomical changes in cellular layers of the cortex that can account for rapid activity-dependent plasticity.


cortical development; cortical plasticity; critical period; ocular dominance; structural plasticity

[Available on 2020-04-07]

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