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NR2B-subunit dependent facilitation of long-term potentiation in primary visual cortex following visual discrimination training of adult rats


H. C. Dringenberg, as above.


Long-term potentiation (LTP) is an important mechanism thought to mediate changes in synaptic connectivity following various types of experience. We examined the effects of visual discrimination training on LTP in the mature, rodent thalamocortical visual system. Adult rats underwent visual discrimination training in a modified Morris Water Maze containing a Y-maze insert, requiring rats to associate visual cues with the location of a hidden escape platform placed in one of the two goal arms of the Y-maze insert. On the day following successful task acquisition (average of nine training days), rats were anesthetized (urethane), and LTP in the thalamocortical system was characterized. In task-naïve rats, theta-burst stimulation of the lateral geniculate nucleus resulted in modest (∼40%) potentiation of field postsynaptic potentials recorded in the primary visual cortex (V1). Rats trained on the visual discrimination task showed significantly greater levels of LTP (∼60%), an effect that was not seen in rats trained to swim in the maze without a predictive association between visual cues and platform location. An antagonist of the N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptor NR2B subunit ([R-(R *,S *)]-α-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-β-methyl-4-(phenylmethyl)-1-piperidinepropanol hydrochloride (Ro 25-6981); 2 mm, applied locally at the recording site in V1) reversed the training-induced LTP enhancement without affecting LTP in task-naïve rats. An antagonist of metabotropic glutamate receptors [(2S)-2-amino-2-[(1S,2S)-2-carboxycycloprop-1-yl]-3-(xanth-9-yl) propanoic acid (LY 341495); 2 mm] was ineffective in reversing the training-induced LTP facilitation. These data suggest that behavioral (visual) training can result in changes in plasticity exhibited by the mature, thalamocortical visual system that require activation of NMDA receptors containing the NR2B subunit.