Protracted development of responses to whisker deflection in rat trigeminal ganglion neurons

Shoykhet M, Shetty P, Minnery BS, Simons DJ (2003). J Neurophysiol, 90(3):1432-7 Read More


The rodent whisker-to-barrel pathway constitutes a major model system for studying experience-dependent brain development. Yet little is known about responses of neurons to whisker stimulation in young animals. Response properties of trigeminal ganglion (NV) neurons in 2-, 3-, and 4-week-old and adult rats were examined using extracellular single-unit recordings and controlled whisker stimuli. We found that the receptive field size of NV neurons is mature in 2-week-old animals while response latencies, magnitudes, and angular tuning continue to develop between 2 weeks of age and adulthood. At the earliest time recorded, NV neurons respond to stimulation of only one whisker and can be characterized as slowly or rapidly adapting (SA, RA). The proportion of SA and RA neurons remains constant during development. Consistent with known on-going myelination of NV axons, response latencies decrease with age, becoming adult-like during the third and fourth postnatal weeks for RA and SA neurons, respectively. Unexpectedly, we found that evoked response magnitudes increase several-fold during development becoming adult-like only during the fourth postnatal week. In addition, RA neurons become less selective for whisker deflection angle with age. Maturation of response magnitude and angular tuning is consistent with developmental changes in the mechanical properties of the whisker, the whisker follicle, and the surrounding tissues. The findings indicate that whisker-derived tactile inputs mature during the first postnatal month when whisker-related cortical circuits are susceptible to long-term modification by sensory experience. Thus normal developmental changes in sensory input may influence functional development of cortical circuits.

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Posted on July 6, 2003
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