Spontaneous retinal waves are critical for the development of receptive fields in visual thalamus (LGN) and cortex (VC). Despite a detailed understanding of the circuit specializations in retina that generate waves, whether central circuit specializations also exist to control their propagation through visual pathways of the brain is unknown. Here we identify a developmentally transient, corticothalamic amplification of retinal drive to thalamus as a mechanism for retinal wave transmission in the infant rat brain. During the period of retinal waves, corticothalamic connections excite LGN, rather than driving feedforward inhibition as observed in the adult. This creates an excitatory feedback loop that gates retinal wave transmission through the LGN. This cortical multiplication of retinal wave input ends just prior to eye-opening, as cortex begins to inhibit LGN. Our results show that the early retino-thalamo-cortical circuit uses developmentally specialized feedback amplification to ensure powerful, high-fidelity transmission of retinal activity despite immature connectivity.
Keywords: EEG; activity depedent development; neuroscience; oscillations; plasticity; rat; retinal waves.