Visual Cortex Gains Independence from Peripheral Drive before Eye Opening

Neuron. 2019 Nov 20;104(4):711-723.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.neuron.2019.08.015. Epub 2019 Sep 24.


Visual spatial perception in the mammalian brain occurs through two parallel pathways: one reaches the primary visual cortex (V1) through the thalamus and another the superior colliculus (SC) via direct projections from the retina. The origin, development, and relative function of these two evolutionarily distinct pathways remain obscure. We examined the early functional development of both pathways by simultaneously imaging pre- and post-synaptic spontaneous neuronal activity. We observed that the quality of retinal activity transfer to the thalamus and superior colliculus does not change across the first two postnatal weeks. However, beginning in the second postnatal week, retinal activity does not drive V1 as strongly as earlier wave activity, suggesting that intrinsic cortical activity competes with signals from the sensory periphery as the cortex matures. Together, these findings bring new insight into the function of the SC and V1 and the role of peripheral activity in driving both circuits across development.

Keywords: RCaMP; activity transfer; jRCaMP1b; lateral geniculate nucleus; retina; retinal waves; spontaneous activity; superior colliculus; visual cortex; visual system development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Neurogenesis / physiology*
  • Superior Colliculi / growth & development
  • Superior Colliculi / physiology*
  • Visual Cortex / growth & development
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*
  • Visual Pathways / growth & development
  • Visual Pathways / physiology*