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Unravelling the development of the visual cortex: implications for plasticity and repair

Unravelling the development of the visual cortex: implications for plasticity and repair

Journal of Anatomy 217(4): 449-468

ISSN/ISBN: 0021-8782

PMID: 20722872

DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7580.2010.01275.x

The visual cortex comprises over 50 areas in the human, each with a specified role and distinct physiology, connectivity and cellular morphology. How these individual areas emerge during development still remains something of a mystery and, although much attention has been paid to the initial stages of the development of the visual cortex, especially its lamination, very little is known about the mechanisms responsible for the arealization and functional organization of this region of the brain. In recent years we have started to discover that it is the interplay of intrinsic (molecular) and extrinsic (afferent connections) cues that are responsible for the maturation of individual areas, and that there is a spatiotemporal sequence in the maturation of the primary visual cortex (striate cortex, V1) and the multiple extrastriate/association areas. Studies in both humans and non-human primates have started to highlight the specific neural underpinnings responsible for the maturation of the visual cortex, and how experience-dependent plasticity and perturbations to the visual system can impact upon its normal development. Furthermore, damage to specific nuclei of the visual cortex, such as the primary visual cortex (V1), is a common occurrence as a result of a stroke, neurotrauma, disease or hypoxia in both neonates and adults alike. However, the consequences of a focal injury differ between the immature and adult brain, with the immature brain demonstrating a higher level of functional resilience. With better techniques for examining specific molecular and connectional changes, we are now starting to uncover the mechanisms responsible for the increased neural plasticity that leads to significant recovery following injury during this early phase of life. Further advances in our understanding of postnatal development/maturation and plasticity observed during early life could offer new strategies to improve outcomes by recapitulating aspects of the developmental program in the adult brain.

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Accession: 056767431

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