Visual deprivation during mouse critical period reorganizes network-level functional connectivity

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A classic example of experience-dependent plasticity is ocular dominance (OD) shift, in which the responsiveness of neurons in the visual cortex is profoundly altered following monocular deprivation (MD). It has been postulated that OD shifts also modify global neural networks, but such effects have never been demonstrated. Here, we used longitudinal wide-field optical calcium imaging to measure resting-state functional connectivity during acute (3-day) MD in mice. First, delta GCaMP6 power in the deprived visual cortex decreased, suggesting that excitatory activity was reduced in the region. In parallel, interhemispheric visual homotopic functional connectivity was rapidly reduced by the disruption of visual drive through MD and was sustained significantly below baseline state. This reduction of visual homotopic connectivity was accompanied by a reduction in parietal and motor homotopic connectivity. Finally, we observed enhanced internetwork connectivity between visual and parietal cortex that peaked at MD2. Together, these findings support the hypothesis that early MD induces dynamic reorganization of disparate functional networks including association cortices.

Significance Statement

Monocular deprivation during the visual critical period triggers several plasticity mechanisms that collaborate to shift the excitability of neurons in the visual cortex. However, little is known about the impacts of MD on cortex-wide functional networks. Here, we measured cortical functional connectivity during short-term critical period MD. We demonstrate that critical period MD has immediate effects on functional networks beyond the visual cortex, and identify regions of substantial functional connectivity reorganization in response to MD.

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