The effects of neonatal visual deafferentation on the final adult pattern of cortico-collicular connections from the rat primary somatosensory cortex barrel field were studied by injecting an anterograde tracer (BDA) into different locations of the barrel cortex. Collicular afferents originating in the barrel cortex normally end in the intermediate collicular strata (SGI and SAI). However, neonatal visual deafferentation caused an invasion of abundant somatosensory cortical afferents into the lateral portions of the superficial collicular strata (SGS and SO). Moreover, anterograde-labelled fibers in the intermediate strata were more densely packed in visually deafferented animals. In order to study the activity of the altered somatosensory cortico-collicular connection, the effects of two different types of whisker stimuli on c-fos expression in the SC were analyzed (apomorphine treatment and enriched environment exploration). In stimulated control animals, c-fos expression was clearly evident in neurons of the intermediate layers 2 h after whisker stimulation. Similar stimulation in adult animals that underwent neonatal visual deafferentation triggered higher levels of c-fos expression in the superficial collicular layers that were invaded by cortico-collicular axonal branches. In exploration experiments, increased levels of c-fos expression were also detected in lateral parts of the intermediate layers of visually deafferented animals. These results suggest that the ascending fibers of somatosensory cortical origin can recruit deafferented superficial collicular neurons that enabling them to participate in extravisual behavioural responses mediated by collicular circuits.
|Number of pages||14|
|Publication status||Published - 17 Feb 2010|