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J Comp Neurol. 1978 Jul 1;180(1):85-114.

Studies of visual function and its decay in mice with hereditary retinal degeneration.


Functional implications of mouse hereditary retinal degeneration have been studied at the level of the superior colliculus and visual cortex in the C57BL/6J-le rd strain. On autoradiography at a light-microscopic level, following eye injection with radioactive compounds, central visual structures appeared normal. A slight reduction in ipsilateral retinal projection was probably related to reduced retinal pigmentation associated with the light ear (le) mutation. In recordings from visual cortex and tectum in rd mice older than five months the cells discharged with highly rhythmic maintained activity. This ongoing activity depended on retinal input, since temporary asphyxia of the eye stopped it immediately. The frequency of the rhythm was influenced by the anesthesia. In these older mice no visual receptive fields could be mapped, but in a few tectal recordings it was possible to suppress the maintained activity by diffuse, very intense illumination. As in normal mice, no auditory or somatosensory responses were observed in the visual cortex or upper tectal layers. In recordings from tectum before the age of three weeks retinotopic topography and receptive fields were normal. By day 24 no receptive fields could be recorded from parts of the tectum representing the central 90--100 degrees of the visual field, whereas within a peripheral ring responses were still roughly normal under photopic conditions. Over the following four months these peripheral responses faded away slowly. Incremental thresholds, especially in the scotopic range, were elevated, rising slowly to unmeasurable values. Similarly during dark adaptation the thresholds fell to values several log units above those reached in normal mice; these values of dark adapted thresholds in rd mice rose with age. This is consistent with morphological changes known to occur in the retina as a consequence, of the rd mutation the rods degenerating before the cones.

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