Injection of MK-801 affects ocular dominance shifts more than visual activity

J Neurophysiol. 1999 Jan;81(1):204-15. doi: 10.1152/jn.1999.81.1.204.


Kittens were given intramuscular injections of the N-methyl--aspartate (NMDA) antagonist MK-801 twice daily (morning and midday) during the peak of the period of susceptibility for ocular dominance changes. They were then exposed to light with one eye closed for 4 h after each injection. The ocular dominance of these kittens was shifted significantly less than that of kittens injected with saline and exposed to light over the same period at the same age. After recording a sample of cells for an ocular dominance histogram, the kittens were injected with the same dose of MK-801 that was used during rearing to observe its effect on the activity of single cells in the visual cortex. In the majority of cells (7/13) there was no significant change in activity. Positive evidence for a reduction in activity was seen in only a minority (3/13) of cells. In a separate series of experiments, dose-response curves were measured for cells in the visual cortex in response to iontophoresis of NMDA or alpha-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic acid (AMPA), and the effect of an injection of MK-801 on these curves was measured. MK-801, at doses similar to those used in the ocular dominance experiments, had a significant effect on the dose-response curves for NMDA, but little effect on the dose-response curves for AMPA, or the visual responses of the cells. We conclude that ocular dominance shifts can be reduced significantly by a treatment that has little effect on the level of activity of cells in the visual cortex but does specifically affect the responses of the cells to NMDA as opposed to the responses to AMPA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Cats
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / administration & dosage
  • Dizocilpine Maleate / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists / pharmacology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology*
  • Eye / drug effects*
  • Functional Laterality / drug effects*
  • N-Methylaspartate / pharmacology
  • Neuronal Plasticity / drug effects
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Sensory Deprivation / physiology
  • Vision, Monocular / physiology
  • Vision, Ocular / drug effects*
  • Visual Cortex / physiology
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid / pharmacology


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Agonists
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • N-Methylaspartate
  • Dizocilpine Maleate
  • alpha-Amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionic Acid