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Keywords:

  • AMPA receptor;
  • LTP ;
  • NMDA receptor;
  • photic stimulation;
  • visual cortex

Abstract

The model most used to study synaptic plasticity, long-term potentiation (LTP), typically employs electrical stimulation of afferent fibers to induce changes in synaptic strength. It would be beneficial for understanding the behavioral relevance of LTP if a model could be developed that used more naturalistic stimuli. Recent evidence suggests that the adult visual cortex, previously thought to have lost most of its plasticity once past the critical period, is in fact capable of LTP-like changes in synaptic strength in response to sensory manipulations alone. In a preliminary study, we used a photic tetanus (PT; flashing checkerboard stimulus) to induce an enhancement of the visual-evoked potential (VEP) in the primary visual cortex of anesthetised adult rats. In the present study, we sought to compare the mechanisms of this novel sensory LTP with those of traditional electrical LTP. Unexpectedly, we found that sensory LTP was not induced as reliably as we had observed previously, as manipulations of several parameters failed to lead to significant potentiation of the VEP. However, we did observe a significant increase in visual cortex glutamate receptor expression on the surface of isolated synapses following the PT. Both AMPA receptor expression and N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit expression were increased, specifically in extrasynaptic regions of the membrane, in PT animals. These results provide biochemical confirmation of the lack of change in the VEP in response to PT, but suggest that PT may prime synapses for strengthening upon appropriate subsequent activation, through the trafficking of glutamate receptors to the cell surface.