Hubel and Wiesel began the modern study of development and plasticity of primary visual cortex (V1), discovering response properties of cortical neurons that distinguished them from their inputs and that were arranged in a functional architecture. Their findings revealed an early innate period of development and a later critical period of dramatic experience-dependent plasticity. Recent studies have used rodents to benefit from biochemistry and genetics. The roles of spontaneous neural activity and molecular signaling in innate, experience-independent development have been clarified, as have the later roles of visual experience. Plasticity produced by monocular visual deprivation (MD) has been dissected into stages governed by distinct signaling mechanisms, some of whose molecular players are known. Many crucial questions remain, but new tools for perturbing cortical cells and measuring plasticity at the level of changes in connections among identified neurons now exist. The future for the study of V1 to illuminate cortical development and plasticity is bright.
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