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Keywords:

  • myelin;
  • barrel cortex;
  • activity dependent;
  • whiskers;
  • sensory deprivation

Abstract

In rodents, the barrel cortex is a specialized area within the somatosensory cortex that processes signals from the mystacial whiskers. We investigated the normal development of myelination in the barrel cortex of mice, as well as the effects of sensory deprivation on this pattern. Deprivation was achieved by trimming the whiskers on one side of the face every other day from birth. In control mice, myelin was not present until postnatal day 14 and did not show prominence until postnatal day 30; adult levels of myelination were reached by the end of the second postnatal month. Unbiased stereology was used to estimate axon density in the interbarrel septal region and barrel walls as well as the barrel centers. Myelin was significantly more concentrated in the interbarrel septa/barrel walls than in the barrel centers in both control and sensory-deprived conditions. Sensory deprivation did not impact the onset of myelination but resulted in a significant decrease in myelinated axons in the barrel region and decreased the amount of myelin ensheathing each axon. Visualization of the oligodendrocyte nuclear marker Olig2 revealed a similar pattern of myelin as seen using histochemistry, but with no significant changes in Olig2+ nuclei following sensory deprivation. Consistent with the anatomical results showing less myelination, local field potentials revealed slower rise times following trimming. Our results suggest that myelination develops relatively late and can be influenced by sensory experience. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol, 2013