Whisker maps in marsupials: Nerve lesions and critical periods

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Journal Article
Anatomical Record - Part A Discoveries in Molecular, Cellular, and Evolutionary Biology, 2006, 288 (2), pp. 174 - 181
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In the wallaby, whisker-related patterns develop over a protracted period of postnatal maturation in the pouch. Afferents arrive simultaneously in the thalamus and cortex from postnatal day (P) 15. Whisker-related patterns are first seen in the thalamus at P50 and are well formed by P73, before cortical patterns first appear (P75) or are well developed (P85). This study used the slow developmental sequence and accessibility of the pouch young to investigate the effect of nerve lesions before afferent arrival, or at times when thalamic patterns are obvious but cortical patterns not yet formed. The left infraorbital nerve supplying the whiskers was cut at P0-93 and animals were perfused at P112-123. Sections through the thalamus (horizontal plane) and cortex (tangential) were reacted for cytochrome oxidase to visualize whisker-related patterns. Lesions of the nerve at P2-5, before innervation of the thalamus or cortex, resulted in an absence of patterns at both levels. Lesions from P66-77 also disrupted thalamic and cortical patterns, despite the fact that thalamic patterns are normally well established by P73. Lesions from P82-93 resulted in normal thalamic and cortical patterns. Thus, despite the wallaby having clearly separated times for the development of patterns at different levels of the pathway, these results suggest a single critical period for the thalamus and cortex, coincident with the maturation of the cortical pattern. Possible mechanisms underpinning this critical period could include dependence of the thalamic pattern on corticothalamic activity or peripheral signals to allow consolidation of thalamic barreloids. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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