A dramatic form of experience-dependent synaptic plasticity is revealed in visual cortex when one eye is temporarily deprived of vision during early postnatal life. Monocular deprivation (MD) alters synaptic transmission such that cortical neurons cease to respond to stimulation of the deprived eye, but how this occurs is poorly understood. Here we show in rat visual cortex that brief MD sets in motion the same molecular and functional changes as the experimental model of homosynaptic long-term depression (LTD), and that prior synaptic depression by MD occludes subsequent induction of LTD. The mechanisms of LTD, about which there is now a detailed understanding, therefore contribute to visual cortical plasticity.
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