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Nature. 1987 Apr 16-22;326(6114):694-7.

Early experience of tactile stimulation influences organization of somatic sensory cortex.


Visual experience is essential for the establishment of the cerebral cortical circuitry that allows normal binocular vision. For example, the pattern of right-eye, left-eye dominance columns is permanently altered by simply closing an eye of a young primate. A critical issue is whether environmental factors also influence the development of other cortical sensory areas. In the present experiments we manipulated the tactile experience of young rats by depriving them of the sensory information that is normally provided by their large facial whiskers. Electrophysiological analyses showed that simply trimming the whiskers from the day of birth results in pronounced abnormalities in the response properties of single neurons in the adult somatic sensory cortex. Thus functional plasticity in response to early experience appears to be a fundamental aspect of cortical development.

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