Functional Plasticity in the Mature Visual System: Changes of the Retino-geniculate Topography After Chronic Visual Deafferentation

  • Ulf Th. Eysel
  • Ulrich Mayer
Part of the NATO Advanced Study Institutes Series book series (NSSA, volume 27)


Photocoagulation of that area of the retina nasal to the optic disc resulted in chronic visual deafferentation of the lateral part of layer A in the contralateral lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of adult cats. Pre- and post-lesion fundus photography revealed well-preserved retinal geometry with negligible changes in the size and position of the lesion. The histology of the coagulated retina displayed a steep decay of all retinal layers at the border and total destruction of the retina within the lesion.

During the first ten days of visual deafferentation, single-cell recordings, using tungsten microelectrodes, from layers A and A1 of the LGN contralateral to the photocoagulated eye yielded a border of light-excitability of layer A cells corresponding to the normal projection of the lesion onto the LGN. Beginning about 20 days after deafferentation, an increased lateral spread of excitation could be demonstrated upon careful investigation of the retino-geniculate topography near the border of deafferentation within the LGN. Light-excitable cells were detected in layer A which had receptive fields horizontally displaced by more than 1° of visual angle with respect to the normal retinotopy of the receptive fields of layer A1 cells. After 30 to 40 days the maximal receptive field displacements reached values of up to 5°.

Considering the magnification factor in the LGN for the horizontal eccentricity of the retinal lesions (20°), the results suggest a lateral spread of excitation within the LGN developing with time after deafferentation and exceeding the normal lateral spread of excitation by up to 250 μm.


Receptive Field Lateral Geniculate Nucleus Fundus Photograph Functional Plasticity Receptive Field Center 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anderson, L. S., R. G. Black, J. Abraham, and A. A. Ward (1971). Neuronal hypersensitivity in experimental trigeminal deafferentation. J. Neurosurg. 35:444–452.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Basbaum, A. I., and P. D. Wall (1976). Chronic changes in the response of cells in adult cat dorsal horn following partial deafferentation: the appearance of responding cells in a previously non-responsive region. Brain Res. 116:181–204.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bird, S. J., and G. J. Aghajanian (1975). Denervation supersensitivity in the cholinergic septohippocampal pathway: a microiontophoretic study. Brain Res. 100:355–370.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bishop, P. O., W. Kozak, W. R. Levick, and G. J. Vakkur (1962). The determination of the projection of the visual field onto the lateral geniculate nucleus in the cat. J. Physiol. 163:503–539.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bishop, P. O., W. Kozak, and G. J. Vakkur (1962). Some quantitative aspects of the cat’s eye: axis and plane of reference, visual field coordinates and optics. J. Physiol. 163:466–502.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Cannon, W. B., and H. Haimovici (1939). The sensitization of motoneurones by partial “denervation.” Amer. J. Physiol. 126:731–740.Google Scholar
  7. Cook, W. H., J. H. Walker, and M. L. Barr (1951). A cytological study of transneuronal atrophy in the cat and rabbit. J. Comp. Neur. 94:267–291.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eysel, U. Th. (1977). Functional changes of cat lateral geniculate cells after chronic monocular deafferentation. Brain Res. 127:363–364.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eysel, U. Th. (1979). Maintained activity, excitation, and inhibition of lateral geniculate neurons after monocular deafferentation in the adult cat. Brain Res. 166:259–271.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Eysel, U. Th., F. Gonzalez-Aguilar, and U. Mayer (1979). A functional sign of reorganization in the visual system of adult cats: lateral geniculate neurons with displaced receptive fields after lesions of the nasal retina. In preparation.Google Scholar
  11. Eysel, U. Th., and O.-J. Grüsser (1975). Intracellular postsynaptic potentials of cat lateral geniculate cells and the effects of degeneration of the optic tract terminals. Brain Res. 98:441–455.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Eysel, U. Th., and O.-J. Grüsser (1978). Increased transneuronal excitation of the cat lateral geniculate nucleus after acute deafferentation. Brain Res. 158:107–128.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Eysel, U. Th., O.-J. Grüsser, and J. Pecci Saavedra (1974). Signal transmission through degenerating synapses in the lateral geniculate body of the cat. Brain Res. 76:49–70.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eysel, U. Th., and U. Mayer (1978). Lateral geniculate nucleus recordings after partial visual deafferentation during the “sensitive period” in the cat. Exp. Brain Res. 32:R13–R14.Google Scholar
  15. Goldberger, M. E., and M. Murray (1974). Restitution of function and collateral sprouting in the cat spinal cord: the deafferented animal. J. Comp. Neur. 158:37–54.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gonzalez-Aguilar, F., and E. De Robertis (1963). A formalin-perfusion fixation method for histophysiological study of the central nervous system with the electron microscope. Neurology 13:758–777.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goodman, D. C., R. S. Bogdasarian, and J. A. Horel (1973). Axonal sprouting of ipsilateral optic tract following opposite eye removal. Brain Behav. Evol. 8:27–50.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Guillery, R. W. (1972). Experiments to determine whether retinogeniculate axons can form translaminar collateral sprouts in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat. J. Comp. Neur. 146:407–420.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hickey, T. L. (1975). Translaminar growth of axons in the kitten dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus after removal of one eye. J. Comp. Neur. 161:359–382.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kaas, J. H., R. W. Guillery, and J. M. Allman (1972). Some principles of organization in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus. Brain Behav. Evol. 6:253–299.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kalil, R. E. (1972). Formation of new retinogeniculate connections in kittens after removal of one eye. Anat. Rec. 172:339–340.Google Scholar
  22. Karnovsky, M. J. (1965). A formaldehyde-glutaraldehyde fixative of high osmolality for use in electron microscopy. J. Cell. Biol. 27:137A.Google Scholar
  23. Loeser, J. D., and A. A. Ward (1967). Some effects of deafferentation on neurons of the cat spinal cord. Arch. Neur. 17:629–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McCouch, G. P., G. M. Austin, C. N. Liu, and C. Y. Liu (1958). Sprouting as a cause of spasticity. J. Neurophysiol. 21:205–216.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Millar, J., A. I. Basbaum, and P. D. Wall (1976). Restructuring of the somatotopic map and appearance of abnormal neuronal activity in the gracile nucleus after partial deafferentation. Exp. Neur. 50:658–672.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Raisman, G. (1969). Neuronal plasticity in the septal nuclei of the adult rat. Brain Res. 14:25–48.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Raisman, G., and P. M. Field (1973). A quantitative investigation of the development of collateral reinnervation after partial deafferentation of the septal nuclei. Brain Res. 50:241–264.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Rowe, M. H. (1976). Effects of early retinal lesions on conduction velocity relationships in the dorsal lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat. Brain Res. 118:27–44.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sanderson, K. J. (1971a). The projection of the visual field to the lateral geniculate and medial interlaminar nuclei in the cat. J. Comp. Neur. 143:101–118.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Sanderson, K. J. (1971b). Visual field projection columns and magnification factors in the lateral geniculate nucleus of the cat. Exp. Brain Res. 13:159–177.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Sanderson, K. J., and S. M. Sherman (1971). Nasotemporal overlap in visual field projected to lateral geniculate nucleus in the cat. J. Neurophysiol. 34:453–466.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. Sharpless, S. K. (1975). Disuse supersensitivity. In: The developmental neuropsychology of sensory deprivation. A. H. Riesen (ed.). Academic Press, New York, pp. 125–152.Google Scholar
  33. Stelzner, D. J., and E. G. Keating (1977). Lack of intralaminar sprouting of retinal axons in monkey LGN. Brain Res. 126: 201–210.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tsukahara, N., A. Hultborn, F. Murakami, and Y. Fujita (1975). Electrophysiological study of formation of new synapses and collateral sprouting in red nucleus neurons after partial denervation. J. Neurophysiol. 38:1359–1372.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Wall, P. D. (1975). Signs of plasticity and reconnection in spinal cord damage. In: Outcome of severe damage to the central nervous system. Ciba Foundation Symposium 34 (new series) Elsevier, Amsterdam, pp. 35–54.Google Scholar
  36. Wall, P. D. (1976). Plasticity in the adult mammalian central nervous system. Progr. in Brain Res. 45:359–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wall, P. D., and M. D. Egger (1971). Formation of new connections in adult rat brains after partial deafferentation. Nature, 232:542–545.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ulf Th. Eysel
    • 1
  • Ulrich Mayer
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für PhysiologieUniversitätsklinikum EssenEssenGermany

Personalised recommendations