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Thalamic inhibition regulates critical-period plasticity in visual cortex and thalamus.

Research group Heimel
Publication year 2017
Published in Nature Neuroscience
Authors J.P. Sommeijer, M Ahmadlou, M.H. Saiepour, K. Seignette, R Min, J.A. Heimel, C.N. Levelt

During critical periods of development, experience shapes cortical circuits, resulting in the acquisition of functions used throughout life. The classic example of critical-period plasticity is ocular dominance (OD) plasticity, which optimizes binocular vision but can reduce the responsiveness of the primary visual cortex (V1) to an eye providing low-grade visual input. The onset of the critical period of OD plasticity involves the maturation of inhibitory synapses within V1, specifically those containing the GABAA receptor α1 subunit. Here we show that thalamic relay neurons in mouse dorsolateral geniculate nucleus (dLGN) also undergo OD plasticity. This process depends on thalamic α1-containing synapses and is required for consolidation of the OD shift in V1 during long-term deprivation. Our findings demonstrate that thalamic inhibitory circuits play a central role in the regulation of the critical period. This has far-reaching consequences for the interpretation of studies investigating the molecular and cellular mechanisms regulating critical periods of brain development.

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