Differential rearing effects on rat visual cortex synapses. I. Synaptic and neuronal density and synapses per neuron

Brain Res. 1985 Mar 11;329(1-2):195-203. doi: 10.1016/0006-8993(85)90525-6.


The bulk of the evidence indicating that different experiences can lead to differences in synapse numbers involves inference from measures of postsynaptic surface (spines and dendrites) in Golgi impregnated tissue. The capriciousness of Golgi impregnation and the absence of direct evidence regarding changes in afferents mandate confirmation of synapse changes by electron microscopy. We calculated the ratio of synapses per neuron in layers I-IV of occipital cortex of rats reared in complex (EC), social (SC), or isolated (IC) environments. Synaptic density estimates were derived from electron micrographs of osmium-uranyl-lead stained tissue and neuronal density estimates were derived from toluidine blue stained semithin sections using stereological methods which correct for group differences in the sizes of synapses and neuronal nuclei. The ratio of these densities, synapses per neuron, was highest in complex environment rats, intermediate in socially reared rats and lowest in isolates, in accordance with predictions from prior Golgi studies. The bulk of the differences were attributable to neuronal density, which was highest in IC rats and lowest in ECs. Synaptic density did not differ statistically across groups. These results indicate, at least within this area and paradigm, that differences in dendritic measures in Golgi impregnated tissue reflect differences in the number of synapses per neuron.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Count
  • Environment*
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Neuronal Plasticity
  • Rats
  • Social Environment*
  • Social Isolation*
  • Synapses / ultrastructure
  • Visual Cortex / cytology
  • Visual Cortex / growth & development*
  • Visual Cortex / ultrastructure