• albino;
  • guinea pig;
  • long-term potentiation;
  • rat;
  • synaptic plasticity


Both neonatal maturity and postnatal maturation are known to be species dependent. For instance, guinea pigs are born with their eyes open, while eye opening takes place 2 weeks after birth in rats. Moreover, several abnormalities have been observed in albino compared to pigmented species. The pigment melanin is proposed to play a protective role and its absence is thought to contribute to neuronal deficits. In the present study, we aimed to investigate functional differences in synaptic transmission in the visual, superficial layers of the superior colliculus (SC) of albino and pigmented rats and pigmented guinea pigs, at eye opening and 1 month after birth. This was achieved by analysing evoked field excitatory postsynaptic potentials (fEPSPs) in vitro, and by investigating the ability of these responses to express γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA)-induced long-term potentiation (LTPG), an enduring increase in synaptic efficacy resulting from bath application of GABA.

Guinea pigs did not show any obvious differences with respect to overall fEPSP characteristics and synaptic plasticity at both ages studied, indicating that maturation must have occurred prenatally. Rats, however, underwent synaptic maturation and refinement to produce stronger fEPSPs and a more robust level of synaptic plasticity 1 month after birth compared to the conditions at eye opening. The state of pigmentation was found to have a crucial influence, with albino rats showing less enhancement of the strength of synaptic transmission in the SC.

It can therefore be concluded that profound developmental differences in pre- and postnatal maturation of the superficial SC exist between guinea pigs and rats, and that the state of pigmentation is a crucial factor in this process.