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Postnatal refinement of interareal feedforward projections in ferret visual cortex

Khalil, R;Contreras-Ramirez, V;Levitt, JB;

We studied the postnatal refinement of feedforward (FF) projections from ferret V1 to multiple cortical targets during the period around eye opening. Our goal was to establish (a) whether the developmental refinement of FF projections parallels that of feedback (FB) cortical circuits, and (b) whether FF pathways from V1 to different target areas refine with a similar rate. We injected the tracer CTb into V1 of juvenile ferrets, and visualized the pattern of labeled axon terminals in extrastriate cortex. Bouton density of FF projections to target areas 18, 19, and 21 declined steadily from 4 to 8 weeks postnatal. However, in area Ssy this decline was delayed somewhat, not occurring until after 6 weeks. During this postnatal period, mean interbouton intervals along individual FF axons to all visual areas increased, and we observed a concomitant moderate decrease in axon density in areas 18, 21, and Ssy. These data suggest that FF circuits linking V1 to its main extrastriate targets remodel largely synchronously in the weeks following eye opening, that FF and FB cortical circuits share a broadly similar developmental timecourse, and that postnatal visual experience is critical for the refinement of both FF and FB cortical circuits.