, Volume 123, Issue 1-2, pp 110-116

Experience-dependent changes in function and anatomy of adult barrel cortex

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Manipulations of sensory input to vibrissal mechanoreceptors can modify columnar functioning of the barrel cortex in adult animals. In mice, partial vibrissectomy sparing one row of vibrissae in young adults results 7 days later in an increase in the functional cortical column activated by the spared whiskers and visualized with 2-deoxyglucose autoradiography. The increase in the extent of the labelled area is visible in all cortical layers, but particularly in layer V, where the metabolic labelling is more intense in the representation of the spared vibrissae. Two months after vibrissectomy the enlargement of the labelled area is accentuated. Deprivation of a row of vibrissae results in a decrease in the areal extent of its cortical representation. Investigations of cortico-cortical connections carried out in living slices of the barrel cortex of mice 2 months after vibrissectomy sparing one row of whiskers, revealed elongation and increased branching of axons originating in the spared cortical column. The dendritic spine density was increased on the basal dendrites of layer V pyramidal neurons of the spared column and decreased on layer III apical dendrites of the deprived column. Thus, prolonged changes in functional activation of adult barrel cortex are accompanied by rearrangement of cortico-cortical circuitry.