• critical period;
  • development;
  • GABA;
  • vibrissae deprivation;
  • WFA


The ability to undergo experience-dependent plasticity in the neocortex is often limited to early development, but also to particular cortical loci and specific experience. In layers II–IV of the barrel cortex, plasticity evoked by removing all but one vibrissae (univibrissa rearing) does not have a time limit except for layer IV barrels, where it can only be induced during the first postnatal week. In contrast, deprivation of every second vibrissa (chessboard deprivation) removes time limits for plasticity. The mechanism permitting plasticity in response to chessboard deprivation and halting it in reply to univibrissa rearing is unknown. Condensation of chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans into perineuronal nets and an increase in intracortical inhibition mediated by parvalbumin-containing interneurons are implicated in closing the critical period for ocular dominance plasticity. These factors could also be involved in setting up the critical period in barrels in a way that depends on a particular sensory experience. We therefore examined changes in density of parvalbumin-containing cells and perineuronal nets during development of mouse barrel cortex and after brief univibrissa and chessboard experience in adolescence. We observed a progressive increase in the density of the two markers across cortical layers between postnatal day 10 and 20, which was especially pronounced in the barrels. Univibrissa rearing, but not chessboard deprivation, increased the density of perineuronal nets and parvalbumin-containing cells in the deprived barrels, but only those that immediately neighbour the undeprived barrel. These data suggest the involvement of both tested factors in closing the critical period in barrels in an experience-dependent manner.