Local cortical interactions determine the form of cortical plasticity

J Neurobiol. 1999 Oct;41(1):58-63.


Competitive interactions between left and right eye inputs to visual cortex during development are usually explained by the thalamocortical axons competing more or less well for cortical territory during retraction into eye specific domains. Here we review the evidence for competitive and co-operative interactions between cortical columns in barrel cortex which are present several weeks after retraction of thalamocortical axons into barrels. Sensory responses in barrel cortex can be altered by a period of vibrissa deprivation. It was found that responses to previously deprived vibrissae (that had been allowed to regrow) were depressed more if neighboring vibrissae were spared than if all vibrissae were removed simultaneously. Depression of the deprived vibrissa response was greater the closer the cell lay to a spared barrel. It was also found that spared vibrissae responses were potentiated more if several neighboring vibrissae were left intact than if only a single vibrissae was spared. These results suggest a mechanism of cooperative potentiation, perhaps due to intracortical summation of excitation evoked by neighbouring vibrissa stimulation. Thalamic responses to vibrissa stimulation were unaffected by deprivation indicating a cortical origin. One of the consequences of deprivation was that the speed of transmission between barrels was increased for spared and decreased for deprived vibrissa. These results imply that inherent interactions between cortical columns give rise to a property of competition and co-operativity which amplify the effects of sensory deprivation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Somatosensory Cortex / physiology*
  • Vibrissae / innervation*
  • Vibrissae / physiology