When contacts are first forming in the developing nervous system, many neurons generate spontaneous activity that has been hypothesized to shape appropriately patterned connections. In Mustela putorius furo, monocular intraocular blockade of spontaneous retinal waves of action potentials by cholinergic agents altered the subsequent eye-specific lamination pattern of the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN). The projection from the active retina was greatly expanded into territory normally belonging to the other eye, and the projection from the inactive retina was substantially reduced. Thus, interocular competition driven by endogenous retinal activity determines the pattern of eye-specific connections from retina to LGN, demonstrating that spontaneous activity can produce highly stereotyped patterns of connections before the onset of visual experience.
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