A burst-based "Hebbian" learning rule at retinogeniculate synapses links retinal waves to activity-dependent refinement

PLoS Biol. 2007 Mar;5(3):e61. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0050061.


Patterned spontaneous activity in the developing retina is necessary to drive synaptic refinement in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN). Using perforated patch recordings from neurons in LGN slices during the period of eye segregation, we examine how such burst-based activity can instruct this refinement. Retinogeniculate synapses have a novel learning rule that depends on the latencies between pre- and postsynaptic bursts on the order of one second: coincident bursts produce long-lasting synaptic enhancement, whereas non-overlapping bursts produce mild synaptic weakening. It is consistent with "Hebbian" development thought to exist at this synapse, and we demonstrate computationally that such a rule can robustly use retinal waves to drive eye segregation and retinotopic refinement. Thus, by measuring plasticity induced by natural activity patterns, synaptic learning rules can be linked directly to their larger role in instructing the patterning of neural connectivity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Learning*
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Synapses / physiology*