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Keywords:

  • neonatal plasticity;
  • mouse;
  • trigeminal brainstem;
  • thalamic ventrobasal complex;
  • quantitative autoradiographic deoxyglucose method

Abstract

We employed the autoradiographic deoxyglucose method to study metabolic whisker maps of the adult mouse somatosensory brainstem and thalamus after the neonatal removal of left whisker follicles C1, C2 and C3. Left whiskers B1–3 and D1–3 were deflected to metabolically activate the somatosensory pathway. Unoperated mice that were stimulated in the same fashion served as controls. Whisker stimulation resulted in an ipsilateral increase in metabolic activity in the three trigeminal brainstem structures in which the whiskers are represented topologically by segments of high cytochrome oxidase activity, i.e. subnucleus caudalis, subnucleus interpolaris and nucleus principalis. In the two subnuclei of mice with lesions and of controls, there was an increase in metabolic activity of the representations of the deflected whiskers, whereas the metabolic activity of representations A1–3 and E1–3 was low. Apart from these similarities, the metabolic activation of the representations originally representing whiskers C1–3 was remarkably greater in mice with lesions than in controls. This increase reached statistical significance in subnucleus caudalis and approached statistical significance in subnucleus interpolaris. In nucleus principalis the deprived territory was only partially activated and the degree of metabolic activation was less than in the subnuclei. In the thalamic ventrobasal complex of mice with lesions metabolic activity was unpatterned whereas two areas of metabolic activation were distinct in controls. Hence, the removal of whisker follicles in newborn mice resulted in the suppression of localized metabolic responses to whisker stimulation in the thalamus, whereas in the brainstem stimulus-related activity was prominent and the deprived territory became responsive to the stimulation of whisker follicles adjacent to the lesion. Apparently, the modification of the whisker representation at the first synapse of the pathway induces a diminution of localized responsivity in the thalamus.