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The role of pattern vision in the development ofcortico-cortical connections


: G. M. Innocenti, as above.


The development of cortico-cortical connections was studied in kittens deprived of vision by binocular eyelid suture during the formation of axonal arbors and synaptogenesis, i.e. between the second postnatal week and the end of the third postnatal month. Axons originating in area 17 and terminating either in ipsilateral or contralateral visual areas were visualized with biocytin. In ipsilateral areas 17 and 18, distinct clusters of branches begin to form, distally from the injection, during the second half of the first postnatal month, independently of pattern vision. More proximal clusters differentiate during the second postnatal month, and this seems to involve elimination of exuberant axonal branches. In kittens deprived of vision for 3 or more months, beginning before natural eye opening, the distal clusters regress and the proximal ones fail to differentiate. In extrastriate areas, distinct clusters of branches have segregated by the end of the second postnatal month, independently of visual experience; however, in kittens deprived of vision for 2 or more months, one of the clusters was selectively eliminated. In contralateral areas 17 and 18, we found stunted terminal arbors in kittens continuously deprived of vision. This was already noticeable at the end of the first postnatal month. Apparently, in the absence of pattern vision, most axons undergo only limited growth and do not form their characteristic terminal columns. Many of these axons are subsequently eliminated. In contrast, 8 days of vision beginning at natural eye opening and followed by visual deprivation caused a nearly normal development of intrahemispheric and interhemispheric connections. In conclusion, pattern vision appears to validate connections at early stages of their development; this validation is necessary for their further growth and differentiation that can then continue autonomously.