Remodeling the Visual Cortex

Science's STKE  16 Mar 2004:
Vol. 2004, Issue 224, pp. tw99-TW99
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2242004TW99

The portions of the mammalian brain's cortex responsible for interpreting visual input undergo continued refinement after birth. Indeed, a critical period of unusual plasticity exists during which visual experience can alter development. Two studies have used benzodiazepines, which disrupt GABAergic signaling, to dissect the mechanisms involved (see the Perspective by Ferster). Hensch and Stryker show that the physical architecture of columns in the neocortex typical of a brain experiencing appropriately balanced vision is altered in response to benzodiazepine treatment. Fagiolini et al. show that benzodiazepines can affect the timing of the critical period via affects on a subset of γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors containing the α1 subunit. Thus, GABAergic signaling contributes both to the formation of columnar architecture and to the timing of the critical period.

D. Ferster, Blocking plasticity in the visual cortex. Science 303, 1619-1621 (2004). [Summary] [Full Text]

T. K. Hensch M. P. Stryker, Columnar architecture sculpted by GABA circuits in developing cat visual cortex. Science 303, 1678-1681 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]

M. Fagiolini, J.-M. Fritschy, K. Löw, H. Möhler, U. Rudolph, T. K. Hensch, Specific GABAA circuits for visual cortical plasticity. Science 303, 1681-1683 (2004). [Abstract] [Full Text]