Visual experience and deprivation bidirectionally modify the composition and function of NMDA receptors in visual cortex

Neuron. 2001 Jan;29(1):157-69. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(01)00187-8.


The receptive fields of visual cortical neurons are bidirectionally modified by sensory deprivation and experience, but the synaptic basis for these changes is unknown. Here we demonstrate bidirectional, experience-dependent regulation of the composition and function of synaptic NMDA receptors (NMDARs) in visual cortex layer 2/3 pyramidal cells of young rats. Visual experience decreases the proportion of NR2B-only receptors, shortens the duration of NMDAR-mediated synaptic currents, and reduces summation of synaptic NMDAR currents during bursts of high-frequency stimulation. Visual deprivation exerts an opposite effect. Although the effects of experience and deprivation are reversible, the rates of synaptic modification vary. Experience can induce a detectable change in synaptic transmission within hours, while deprivation-induced changes take days. We suggest that experience-dependent changes in NMDAR composition and function regulate the development of receptive field organization in visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Excitatory Postsynaptic Potentials / physiology
  • Female
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Male
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Protein Subunits
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology
  • Pyramidal Cells / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / metabolism*
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology*
  • Synapses / metabolism
  • Synaptic Transmission / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / metabolism*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*


  • NR2B NMDA receptor
  • Protein Subunits
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate