Refinement but not maintenance of visual receptive fields is independent of visual experience

Timothy S. Balmer, Sarah L. Pallas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Visual deprivation is reported to prevent or delay the development of mature receptive field (RF) properties in primary visual cortex (V1) in several species. In contrast, visual deprivation neither prevents nor delays refinement of RF size in the superior colliculus (SC) of Syrian hamsters, although vision is required for RF maintenance in the SC. Here, we report that, contrary to expectation, visual cortical RF refinement occurs normally in dark-reared animals. As in the SC, a brief period of visual experience is required to maintain V1 RF refinement in adulthood. Whereas in the SC, 3 days of visual experience within a sensitive period (P37-40) was sufficient to protect RFs from deprivation-induced enlargement in adulthood, 7 days (P33-40) were required for RF size maintenance in V1. Thus, spontaneous activity is sufficient for RF refinement at these 2 levels of the visual pathway, and visual input is necessary only to prevent deprivation-induced RF enlargement in adulthood. These studies show that sensory experience during a late juvenile sensitive period protects the visual pathway against sensory deprivation in adulthood, and suggest that more importance may have been placed on the role of early visual experience in visual RF development than is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)904-917
Number of pages14
JournalCerebral Cortex
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • adult plasticity
  • critical period
  • dark rearing
  • rodent
  • visual deprivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


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