Blindness early in life induces permanent alterations in brain anatomy, including reduced surface area of primary visual cortex (V1). Bilateral enucleation early in development causes greater reductions in primary visual cortex surface area than at later times. However, the time at which cortical surface area expansion is no longer sensitive to enucleation is not clearly established, despite being an important milestone for cortical development. Using histological and MRI techniques, we investigated how reductions in the surface area of V1 depends on the timing of blindness onset in rats, ferrets and humans. To compare data across species, we translated ages of all species to a common neuro-developmental event-time (ET) scale. Consistently, blindness during early cortical expansion induced large (~40%) reductions in V1 surface area, in rats and ferrets, while blindness occurring later had diminishing effects. Longitudinal measurements on ferrets confirmed that early enucleation disrupted cortical expansion, rather than inducing enhanced pruning. We modeled the ET associated with the conclusion of the effect of blindness on surface area at maturity (ETc), relative to the normal conclusion of visual cortex surface area expansion, (ETdev). A final analysis combining our data with extant published data confirmed that ETc occurred well before ETdev.
- surface area
- visual cortex
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cognitive Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience