Functional reinnervation in kitten visual cortex

J. Anthony Movshon, C. Blakemore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Most cells in the adult cat visual cortex, and even in the very young kitten can be activated by visual stimuli presented to either eye. The retention and refinement of these normal binocular connections depends critically on simultaneous correlated visual experience through both eyes early in life. If a kitten is deprived of vision in one eye during a 'sensitive period', which stretches from about 3 wk to 3 mth, the normal pattern of functional connections is grossly disrupted; the deprived eye loses its influence and most cells can only be driven by stimuli through the experienced eye. Blakemore and Van Sluyters have recently shown that this situation can be partly or totally reversed by covering the previously experienced eye and opening the deprived eye, and allowing that eye a substantial period of visual experience. Thus one set of afferent terminals, robbed of almost all influence in the visual cortex, can reestablish working connection. The form and rate of this functional reinnervation were analysed. In 6 kittens the lids of the right eye were sutured together at or before the time of natural eye opening (normally 6/10 days). Reverse suturing was performed at the age of 5 wk: the lids of the right eye were opened and those of the left eye sutured shut. All precautions were taken to ensure that the animals never received simultaneous binocular vision. As a control, one kitten was monocularly deprived in the right eye for 5 wk, and recordings taken immediately. The authors observed striking changes in the functional architecture of the cortex during reversal of monocular deprivation. Cells were clustered into distinct regions dominated by one eye or the other, the 'ocular dominance columns' of Hubel and Wiesel. The dimensions of these columns were judged by the distances between obvious switches in ocular dominance during each long penetration. The relative size of the columns seemed to change from animal to animal in an ordered manner. In kittens where the 2 eyes commanded roughly equal numbers of cortical cells, the columns for the 2 eyes were of about the same size; in the more extreme cases the regions devoted to the eye that, overall, dominated fewer cells were smaller and sparser. After reverse suturing, areas dominated by the initially deprived eye appear, then expand and ultimately occupy the whole cortex. Such an orderly anatomical progression suggests that this physiologic recapture may represent actual growth and reorganization of afferent terminals, not merely the strengthening of existing but silent synapses. If so, it implies that the mammalian central nervous system, at least early in life, has some powers of rapid regeneration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-505
Number of pages2
JournalNature
Volume251
Issue number5475
StatePublished - 1974

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Visual Cortex
ocular Dominance
Binocular Vision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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Movshon, J. A., & Blakemore, C. (1974). Functional reinnervation in kitten visual cortex. Nature, 251(5475), 504-505.

Functional reinnervation in kitten visual cortex. / Movshon, J. Anthony; Blakemore, C.

In: Nature, Vol. 251, No. 5475, 1974, p. 504-505.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Movshon, JA & Blakemore, C 1974, 'Functional reinnervation in kitten visual cortex', Nature, vol. 251, no. 5475, pp. 504-505.
Movshon, J. Anthony ; Blakemore, C. / Functional reinnervation in kitten visual cortex. In: Nature. 1974 ; Vol. 251, No. 5475. pp. 504-505.
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