Short-term monocular deprivation alters early components of visual evoked potentials

J Physiol. 2015 Oct 1;593(19):4361-72. doi: 10.1113/JP270950. Epub 2015 Jul 26.


Key points: Short-term monocular deprivation in adult humans produces a perceptual boost of the deprived eye reflecting homeostatic plasticity. Visual evoked potentials (VEPs) to transient stimuli change after 150 min of monocular deprivation in adult humans. The amplitude of the C1 component of the VEP at a latency of about 100 ms increases for the deprived eye and decreases for the non-deprived eye after deprivation, the two effects being highly negatively correlated. Similarly, the evoked alpha rhythm increases after deprivation for the deprived eye and decreases for the non-deprived eye. The data demonstrate that primary visual cortex excitability is altered by a short period of monocular deprivation, reflecting homeostatic plasticity.

Abstract: Very little is known about plasticity in the adult visual cortex. In recent years psychophysical studies have shown that short-term monocular deprivation alters visual perception in adult humans. Specifically, after 150 min of monocular deprivation the deprived eye strongly dominates the dynamics of binocular rivalry, reflecting homeostatic plasticity. Here we investigate the neural mechanisms underlying this form of short-term visual cortical plasticity by measuring visual evoked potentials (VEPs) on the scalp of adult humans during monocular stimulation before and after 150 min of monocular deprivation. We found that monocular deprivation had opposite effects on the amplitude of the earliest component of the VEP (C1) for the deprived and non-deprived eye stimulation. C1 amplitude increased (+66%) for the deprived eye, while it decreased (-29%) for the non-deprived eye. Source localization analysis confirmed that the C1 originates in the primary visual cortex. We further report that following monocular deprivation, the amplitude of the peak of the evoked alpha spectrum increased on average by 23% for the deprived eye and decreased on average by 10% for the non-deprived eye, indicating a change in cortical excitability. These results indicate that a brief period of monocular deprivation alters interocular balance in the primary visual cortex of adult humans by both boosting the activity of the deprived eye and reducing the activity of the non-deprived eye. This indicates a high level of residual homeostatic plasticity in the adult human primary visual cortex, probably mediated by a change in cortical excitability.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Electroencephalography
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology*
  • Vision, Monocular / physiology
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Young Adult