Monocular deprivation early in postnatal development leads to anatomical and physiological changes in the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) and visual cortex. Many of these changes are dependent upon activation of the NMDA receptor. We have examined the role of visual experience in modifying NMDAR1 subunit expression in the LGN of animals reared with various forms of visual deprivation. Following monocular deprivation initiated either at eye opening or at the peak of the critical period, there were approximately 20% fewer NMDAR1-immunopositive neurons in the deprived laminae of the LGN. The loss of NMDAR1-immunopositive neurons was found throughout both the binocular and monocular segments of the LGN and after monocular deprivation until just 3 weeks of age. These results indicate that the loss of NMDAR1 in the LGN following monocular deprivation does not simply reflect changes in the visual cortex. The loss of NMDAR1 expression was not necessarily permanent. Initiation of binocular vision at the peak of the critical period ameliorated the effect of monocular deprivation and the introduction of a period of reverse occlusion led to a complete reversal. Taken together, the results show that the expression of the NMDAR1 subunit in the LGN can be modified by the pattern of visual experience during postnatal development.
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