Experience-dependent changes in basal dendritic branching of layer 2/3 pyramidal neurons during a critical period for developmental plasticity in rat barrel cortex

Cereb Cortex. 2004 Jun;14(6):655-64. doi: 10.1093/cercor/bhh026. Epub 2004 Mar 28.


In rat barrel cortex, development of layer 2/3 receptive fields can be disrupted by sensory deprivation, with a critical period ending around postnatal day (PND) 14. To determine if experience-dependent plasticity of dendritic morphology could contribute to the reorganization of synaptic inputs, we analyzed dendritic structure in acute brain slices using two-photon laser scanning microscopy (2PLSM) and automated segmentation and analysis software. Layer 2/3 pyramidal cells from control and deprived rats were imaged from PND 9 to PND 20, spanning the critical period. Detailed analyses were performed on basal arbors, which receive the majority of synaptic input from layer 4. Some parameters (number of primary dendrites, volume subtended, aspect ratios) were stable, suggesting that development of several important properties of basal arbors has ceased by age PND 9. However, the spatial organization of secondary branching changed with age and experience. In older neurons there was a larger fraction of branch points farther from the soma. Deprivation from age PND 9 delayed these changes in secondary branching. This effect of deprivation was rapid (detectable at PND 10) and present at all ages observed. Deprivation initiated at PND 15 had no effect on basal branching measured at PND 20. Thus the spatial organization of secondary dendritic branching is experience-dependent and shares a critical period with receptive field plasticity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Aging / physiology
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Dendrites / physiology*
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure*
  • Neocortex / cytology*
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / cytology
  • Nerve Net / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / cytology*
  • Pyramidal Cells / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology*