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Monocular deprivation induces homosynaptic long-term depression in visual cortex


Brief monocular deprivation during early postnatal development can lead to a depression of synaptic transmission that renders visual cortical neurons unresponsive to subsequent visual stimulation through the deprived eye. The Bienenstock–Cooper–Munro (BCM) theory1 proposes that homosynaptic mechanisms of long-term depression (LTD) account for the deprivation effects2,3. Homosynaptic depression, by definition, occurs only at active synapses. Thus, in contrast to the commonly held view that the synaptic depression caused by monocular deprivation is simply a result of retinal inactivity, this theoretical framework indicates that the synaptic depression may actually be driven by the residual activity in the visually deprived retina4. Here we examine the validity of this idea by comparing the consequences of brief monocular deprivation by lid suture with those of monocular inactivation by intra-ocular treatment with tetrodotoxin. Lid suture leaves the retina spontaneously active, whereas tetrodotoxin eliminates all activity. In agreement with the BCM theory, our results show that monocular lid suture causes a significantly greater depression of deprived-eye responses in kitten visual cortex than does treatment with tetrodotoxin. These findings have important implications for mechanisms of experience-dependent plasticity in the neocortex.

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Figure 1: Experimental design.
Figure 2: Analysis of the ocular-dominance data pooled from all animals in each group.
Figure 3: Analysis by case.


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This work was supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the NIH and the Dana Foundation.

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Correspondence to Mark F. Bear.

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Rittenhouse, C., Shouval, H., Paradiso, M. et al. Monocular deprivation induces homosynaptic long-term depression in visual cortex. Nature 397, 347–350 (1999).

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