Environmental Influences on Sensory System Maturation: Effect of Enrichment on Binocular Matching in Mouse Primary Visual Cortex

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The form and function of neural circuits are shaped by experience during critical periods of development. Recently, our lab discovered an important outcome of critical period plasticity in the visual system, namely, binocular matching of orientation preference, whereby initially randomly aligned orientation preferences become matched in individual cells. Following this discovery, it remained unknown how this process took place, what the capacity was for matching following the critical period’s close, and how the environment could influence the timing of the matching process. In Chapter 2, I show that three weeks of enriched environment (EE) is able to induce a full rescue of binocular matching following monocular deprivation spanning the entire critical period. Furthermore, using chronic, two-photon imaging I track individual cortical cells over time as they undergo this EE-induced matching process, yielding important insight into the synaptic mechanisms underlying the rescue. Finally, in Chapter 3, pursuant to a finding from our lab that EE induces precocious binocular matching during development, I use a combination of whole genome and single-gene approaches to identify genetic candidates with roles in structural and synaptic plasticity which may play a role precocious binocular matching. These findings lend insight into how the environment can influence the maturation of visual system function, and perhaps the function of sensory systems, generally.

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  • 10/09/2018
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