Locomotion Induces Stimulus-Specific Response Enhancement in Adult Visual Cortex

J Neurosci. 2017 Mar 29;37(13):3532-3543. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3760-16.2017. Epub 2017 Mar 3.


The responses of neurons in the visual cortex (V1) of adult mammals have long been thought to be stable over long periods. Here, we investigated whether repeated exposure to specific stimuli would enhance V1 visual responses in mice using intrinsic signal imaging through the intact skull and two-photon imaging of calcium signals in single neurons. Mice ran on Styrofoam balls floating on air while viewing one of three different, high-contrast visual stimuli. V1 responses to the stimuli that were viewed by the animal were specifically enhanced, while responses to other stimuli were unaffected. Similar exposure in stationary mice or in mice in which NMDA receptors were partially blocked did not significantly enhance responses. These findings indicate that stimulus-specific plasticity in the adult visual cortex depends on concurrent locomotion, presumably as a result of the high-gain state of the visual cortex induced by locomotion.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT We report a rapid and persistent increase in visual cortical responses to visual stimuli presented during locomotion in intact mice. We first used a method that is completely noninvasive to image intrinsic signals through the intact skull. We then measured the same effects on single neurons using two-photon calcium imaging and found that the increase in response to a particular stimulus produced by locomotion depends on how well the neuron is initially driven by the stimulus. To our knowledge, this is the first time such enhancement has been described in single neurons or using noninvasive measurements.

Keywords: V1; locomotion; mouse; orientation tuning; plasticity; visual cortex.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual / physiology
  • Female
  • Locomotion / physiology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods*
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Perception / physiology*