Changes in input strength and number are driven by distinct mechanisms at the retinogeniculate synap

Authors: David J. Lin, Erin Kang, Chinfei Chen
AbstractRecent studies have demonstrated that vision influences the functional remodeling of the mouse retinogeniculate synapse, the connection between retinal ganglion cells and thalamic relay neurons in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN). Initially, each relay neuron receives a large number of weak retinal inputs. Over a 2- to 3-wk developmental window, the majority of these inputs are eliminated, and the remaining inputs are strengthened. This period of refinement is followed by a critical period when visual experience changes the strength and connectivity of the retinogeniculate synapse. Visual deprivation of mice by dark rearing from postnatal day (P)20 results in a dramatic weakening of synaptic strength and recruitment of additional inputs. In the present study we asked whether experience-dependent plasticity at the retinogeniculate synapse represents a homeostatic response to changing visual environment. We found that visual experience starting at P20 following visual deprivation from birth results in weakening of existing retinal inputs onto relay neurons without significant changes in input number, consistent with homeostatic synaptic scaling of retinal inputs. On the other hand, the recruitment of new inputs to the retinogeniculate synapse requires previous visual experience prior to the critical period. Taken together, these findings suggest that diverse forms of homeostatic plasticity drive experience-dependent remodeling at the retinogeniculate synapse.