Experience-dependent plasticity from eye opening enables lasting, visual cortex-dependent enhancement of motion vision

J Neurosci. 2008 Sep 24;28(39):9817-27. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1940-08.2008.


Developmentally regulated plasticity of vision has generally been associated with "sensitive" or "critical" periods in juvenile life, wherein visual deprivation leads to loss of visual function. Here we report an enabling form of visual plasticity that commences in infant rats from eye opening, in which daily threshold testing of optokinetic tracking, amid otherwise normal visual experience, stimulates enduring, visual cortex-dependent enhancement (>60%) of the spatial frequency threshold for tracking. The perceptual ability to use spatial frequency in discriminating between moving visual stimuli is also improved by the testing experience. The capacity for inducing enhancement is transitory and effectively limited to infancy; however, enhanced responses are not consolidated and maintained unless in-kind testing experience continues uninterrupted into juvenile life. The data show that selective visual experience from infancy can alone enable visual function. They also indicate that plasticity associated with visual deprivation may not be the only cause of developmental visual dysfunction, because we found that experientially inducing enhancement in late infancy, without subsequent reinforcement of the experience in early juvenile life, can lead to enduring loss of function.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Eye*
  • Female
  • GABA Agonists / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Motion*
  • Muscimol / pharmacology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Nystagmus, Optokinetic / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Sensory Thresholds / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / drug effects
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Fields / physiology
  • Visual Perception / drug effects
  • Visual Perception / physiology


  • GABA Agonists
  • Muscimol