Stimulus timing-dependent plasticity in cortical processing of orientation

Neuron. 2001 Oct 25;32(2):315-23. doi: 10.1016/s0896-6273(01)00460-3.


The relative timing of presynaptic and postsynaptic spikes plays a critical role in activity-induced synaptic modification. Here we examined whether plasticity of orientation selectivity in the visual cortex depends on stimulus timing. Repetitive pairing of visual stimuli at two orientations induced a shift in orientation tuning of cat cortical neurons, with the direction of the shift depending on the temporal order of the pair. Induction of a significant shift required that the interval between the pair fall within +/-40 ms, reminiscent of the temporal window for spike timing-dependent synaptic plasticity. Mirroring the plasticity found in cat visual cortex, similar conditioning also induced a shift in perceived orientation by human subjects, further suggesting functional relevance of this phenomenon. Thus, relative timing of visual stimuli can play a critical role in dynamic modulation of adult cortical function, perhaps through spike timing-dependent synaptic plasticity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Conditioning, Psychological
  • Electrophysiology
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology
  • Orientation / physiology*
  • Perception
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Synapses / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*