Cerebral cortex (New York, N.Y. : 1991)

The impact of development and sensory deprivation on dendritic protrusions in the mouse barrel cortex.

PMID 24408954


Dendritic protrusions (spines and filopodia) are structural indicators of synapses that have been linked to neuronal learning and memory through their morphological alterations induced by development and experienced-dependent activities. Although previous studies have demonstrated that depriving sensory experience leads to structural changes in neocortical organization, the more subtle effects on dendritic protrusions remain unclear, mostly due to focus on only one specific cell type and/or age of manipulation. Here, we show that sensory deprivation induced by whisker trimming influences the dendritic protrusions of basilar dendrites located in thalamocortical recipient lamina (IV and VI) of the mouse barrel cortex in a layer-specific manner. Following 1 month of whisker trimming after birth, the density of dendritic protrusions increased in layer IV, but decreased in layer VI. Whisker regrowth for 1 month returned protrusion densities to comparable level of age-matched controls in layer VI, but not in layer IV. In adults, chronic sensory deprivation led to an increase in protrusion densities in layer IV, but not in layer VI. In addition, chronic pharmacological blockade of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors (NMDARs) increased protrusion density in both layers IV and VI, which returned to the control level after 1 month of drug withdrawal. Our data reveal that different cortical layers respond to chronic sensory deprivation in different ways, with more pronounced effects during developmental critical periods than adulthood. We also show that chronically blocking NMDARs activity during developmental critical period also influences the protrusion density and morphology in the cerebral cortex.