Effect of visual experience on the maturation of ON-OFF direction selective ganglion cells in the rabbit retina

Vision Res. 2008 Oct;48(23-24):2466-75. doi: 10.1016/j.visres.2008.08.010. Epub 2008 Sep 27.


Activity-dependent neural plasticity is well known in the development of the visual cortical circuitry. However, the role of neural plasticity in the developing retina is less well understood. In the light of recent findings that light deprivation alters the development of synaptic pathway in the mouse and turtle retinas, we studied whether visual experience is required for the maturation of the ON-OFF direction selective ganglion cells (DSGCs) in the rabbit retina. The DSGCs of rabbits raised under a normal light-dark cycle and in the constant darkness were recorded extracellularly at various postnatal stages. Receptive field properties, such as direction selectivity, velocity tuning, classical center-surround interaction and motion-induced surround inhibition were examined. Recorded cells were subsequently injected with Neurobiotin in order to characterize their morphological features and tracer coupling patterns. Our results revealed that visual experience is not critical for the maturation of the classical receptive field properties of the DSGCs, such as direction selectivity and velocity tuning. However, the dark-reared rabbits showed altered surround inhibition, which is mediated by the amacrine cells of the inner retina. In addition, the DSGCs of both normal- and dark-reared rabbits showed similar dendritic features and tracer coupling patterns. Taken together, this study indicates that visual experience plays a less significant role on the DS circuitry maturation in the retina than in the cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dendrites / ultrastructure
  • Motion Perception / physiology*
  • Neural Inhibition / physiology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Rabbits
  • Retina / growth & development
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / physiology*
  • Retinal Ganglion Cells / ultrastructure
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology
  • Visual Fields / physiology