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Effects of Visual Deprivation on Development of Visual Cortex: Distinct Gene Systems Mediating Activity-dependent Plasticity

Daniela Tropea, A. Lyckman, Gabriel Kreiman, Sayan Mukherjee & Mriganka Sur

Primary visual cortex (V1) has been a proving ground for the phenomena and mechanisms of experience-dependent plasticity during cortical development [1,2]. Two key paradigms for examining the role of activity in development of V1 involve either a complete absence of light to both eyes via dark-rearing (DR), or an imbalance of activity between the two eyes via monocular deprivation (MD).  The molecular correlates of these two types of visual input deprivation are only partially understood.

We used DNA microarray analysis of V1 in control, DR and MD mice, combined with computational approaches that consider the activation of single genes as well as gene networks, to show that DR and MD activate some similar but also several surprisingly different molecular pathways.  In particular, DR leads to a differential up-regulation of genes subserving synaptic transmission and electrical activity, consistent with a homeostatic response of cortical neurons to reduction in activity, whereas MD differentially up-regulates gene systems related to growth factors and neuronal degeneration, consistent with an injury-like response of the developing cortex.


This report describes research done at the Center for Biological & Computational Learning, which is in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, as well as in the Dept. of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, and which is affiliated with the Computer Sciences & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

This research was sponsored by grants from: Office of Naval Research (DARPA) Contract No. MDA972-04-1-0037, Office of Naval Research (DARPA) Contract No. N00014-02-1-0915, National Science Foundation (ITR/SYS) Contract No. IIS-0112991, National Science Foundation (ITR) Contract No. IIS-0209289, National Science Foundation-NIH (CRCNS) Contract No. EIA-0218693, National Science Foundation-NIH (CRCNS) Contract No. EIA-0218506, and National Institutes of Health (Conte) Contract No. 1 P20 MH66239-01A1.

Additional support was provided by: Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI), Daimler-Chrysler AG, Compaq/Digital Equipment Corporation, Eastman Kodak Company, Honda R&D Co., Ltd., Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Komatsu Ltd., Eugene McDermott Foundation, Merrill-Lynch, NEC Fund, Oxygen, Siemens Corporate Research, Inc., Sony, Sumitomo Metal Industries, and Toyota Motor Corporation.


[1] Chapman, B., M. Stryker, et al. (1996). "Development of Orientation Preference Maps in Ferret Primary Visual Cortex." Journal of Neuroscience 16(20): 6443-6453.

[2] Sur, M. and C. A. Leamey (2001). "Development and Plasticity of Cortical Areas and Networks." Nat Rev Neurosci 2(4): 251-62.

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