Postnatal development of functional properties of visual cortical cells in rats with excitotoxic lesions of basal forebrain cholinergic neurons

Vis Neurosci. Jan-Feb 1997;14(1):111-23. doi: 10.1017/s0952523800008816.


In the rat, visual cortical cells develop their functional properties during a period termed as critical period, which is included between eye opening, i.e. postnatal day (PD) 15, and PD40. The present investigation was aimed at studying the influence of cortical cholinergic afferents from the basal forebrain (BF) on the development of functional properties of visual cortical neurons. At PD15, rats were unilaterally deprived of the cholinergic input to the visual cortex by stereotaxic injections of quisqualic acid in BF cholinergic nuclei projecting to the visual cortex. Cortical cell functional properties, such as ocular dominance, orientation selectivity, receptive-field size, and cell responsiveness were then assessed by extracellular recordings in the visual cortex ipsilateral to the lesioned BF both during the critical period (PD30) and after its end (PD45). After the recording session, the rats were sacrificed and the extent of both cholinergic lesion in BF and cholinergic depletion in the visual cortex was determined. Our results show that lesion of BF cholinergic nuclei transiently alters the ocular dominance of visual cortical cells while it does not affect the other functional properties tested. In particular, in lesioned animals recorded during the critical period, a higher percentage of visual cortical cells was driven by the contralateral eye with respect to normal animals. After the end of the critical period, the ocular dominance distribution of animals with cholinergic deafferentation was not significantly different from that of controls. Our results suggest the possibility that lesions of BF cholinergic neurons performed during postnatal development only transiently interfere with cortical competitive processes.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase / metabolism
  • Cholinergic Fibers / drug effects
  • Cholinergic Fibers / physiology*
  • Dominance, Cerebral
  • Evoked Potentials, Visual
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Prosencephalon / drug effects
  • Prosencephalon / physiology*
  • Quisqualic Acid / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Visual Cortex / drug effects
  • Visual Cortex / growth & development*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology*


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • Quisqualic Acid
  • Choline O-Acetyltransferase