Visual experience is necessary for the normal development of the visual system. Dark-reared mammals show abnormal vision when reintroduced into a normal environment. The absence of visual experience during the critical period results in reduced and/or inappropriate neural responses in visual cortical neurons. The change in electrical activity induced by dark rearing is probably reflected by the modulation of specific unknown molecules. Neurotrophins are present in the developing visual cortex and their production depends on visually driven electrical activity. Recent findings support the possibility that an important link between electrical activity in the visual pathway and correct development of visual properties is represented by neurotrophins. We advance the hypothesis that the visual abnormalities present in dark-reared animals could be due to a decreased production of a neurotrophin secondary to the lack of visual stimulation. We report that some properties of visual cortical response such as receptive field size, orientation selectivity, adaptation to repeated stimulation, response latency and visual acuity are virtually normal in dark-reared rats transplanted with polymerencapsulated baby hamster kidney cells genetically engineered to release nerve growth factor.
- Critical period
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