Many sensory neural circuits exhibit response normalization, which occurs when the response of a neuron to a combination of multiple stimuli is less than the sum of the responses to the individual stimuli presented alone. In the visual cortex, normalization takes the forms of cross-orientation suppression and surround suppression. At the onset of visual experience, visual circuits are partially developed and exhibit some mature features such as orientation selectivity, but it is unknown whether cross-orientation suppression is present at the onset of visual experience or requires visual experience for its emergence. We characterized the development of normalization and its dependence on visual experience in female ferrets. Visual experience was varied across the following three conditions: typical rearing, dark rearing, and dark rearing with daily exposure to simple sinusoidal gratings (14-16 h total). Cross-orientation suppression and surround suppression were noted in the earliest observations, and did not vary considerably with experience. We also observed evidence of continued maturation of receptive field properties in the second month of visual experience: substantial length summation was observed only in the oldest animals (postnatal day 90); evoked firing rates were greatly increased in older animals; and direction selectivity required experience, but declined slightly in older animals. These results constrain the space of possible circuit implementations of these features.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The development of the brain depends on both nature-factors that are independent of the experience of an individual animal-and nurture-factors that depend on experience. While orientation selectivity, one of the major response properties of neurons in visual cortex, is already present at the onset of visual experience, it is unknown whether response properties that depend on interactions among multiple stimuli develop without experience. We find that the properties of cross-orientation suppression and surround suppression are present at eye opening, and do not depend on visual experience. Our results are consistent with the idea that a majority of the basic properties of sensory neurons in primary visual cortex are derived independent of the experience of an individual animal.
Keywords: development; divisive normalization; nature; nurture; sensory cortex; vision.
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