How The Brain Prepares For The Eyes To See

Computer simulations show that spontaneous activity in the developing retina could help the visual cortex form properly prior to input from the eyes.

AsianScientist (Sep. 16, 2020) – Simulations of the brain have revealed how neural circuits of the visual system form even before we open our eyes for the first time. These findings, by a team led by Professor Paik Se-Bum of the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST), have been published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

To prepare an animal to see when its eyes open, neural circuits in the brain’s visual system must start developing earlier during development. However, neurons in the visual cortex generally require sensory input through the eyes to make connections, organize and develop our visual systems. In particular, long-range connections linking different domains of the primary visual cortex are known to important, but despite extensive studies, it was not known how they are formed.

To study how long-range connections in the visual cortex form before the eyes open, Paik and his team used simulated retinal structures and activity using data obtained from the retinas of young animals, including cats, monkeys and mice.

Their simulations showed that spontaneous waves of activity in the developing retina can initialize the wiring of long-range horizontal connections by co-activating neurons in the visual cortex that have the same orientation.

The simulations also showed that the long-range horizontal connections can subsequently cause the visual cortex to develop patterns of activity that match the organization of both ferret and rodent eyes. This result implies that the model developed by Paik and his group can be applied to both higher mammals as well as rodents.

“Our model provides a deeper understanding of how the functional architectures in the visual cortex can originate from the spatial organization of the periphery, without sensory experience during early developmental periods,” Paik said

“We believe that our findings will be of great interest to scientists working in a wide range of fields such as neuroscience, vision science and developmental biology.”

The article can be found at: Kim et al. (2020) Spontaneous Retinal Waves Can Generate Long-Range Horizontal Connectivity in Visual Cortex.


Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology.
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