Genetic control of experience-dependent plasticity in the visual cortex

Genes Brain Behav. 2008 Nov;7(8):915-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1601-183X.2008.00431.x. Epub 2008 Aug 12.


Depriving one eye of visual experience during a sensitive period of development results in a shift in ocular dominance (OD) in the primary visual cortex (V1). To assess the heritability of this form of cortical plasticity and identify the responsible gene loci, we studied the influence of monocular deprivation on OD in a large number of recombinant inbred mouse strains derived from mixed C57BL/6J and DBA/2J backgrounds (BXD). The strength of imaged intrinsic signal responses in V1 to visual stimuli was strongly heritable as were various elements of OD plasticity. This has important implications for the use of mice of mixed genetic backgrounds for studying OD plasticity. C57BL/6J showed the most significant shift in OD, while some BXD strains did not show any shift at all. Interestingly, the increase in undeprived ipsilateral eye responses was not correlated to the decrease in deprived contralateral eye responses, suggesting that the size of these components of OD plasticity are not genetically controlled by only a single mechanism. We identified a quantitative trait locus regulating the change in response to the deprived eye. The locus encompasses 13 genes, two of which--Stch and Nrip1--contain missense polymorphisms. The expression levels of Stch and to a lesser extent Nrip1 in whole brain correlate with the trait identifying them as novel candidate plasticity genes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing / genetics
  • Animals
  • Blindness / genetics*
  • Blindness / physiopathology
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Electronic Data Processing
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Genetic Testing / methods
  • Genotype
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / genetics
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred DBA
  • Mutation, Missense / genetics
  • Neuronal Plasticity / genetics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Receptor Interacting Protein 1
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Quantitative Trait Loci / genetics
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Vision, Binocular / genetics
  • Visual Cortex / growth & development*
  • Visual Perception / genetics


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Hspa13 protein, mouse
  • Nrip1 protein, mouse
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Nuclear Receptor Interacting Protein 1