Bidirectional synaptic mechanisms of ocular dominance plasticity in visual cortex

Gordon B. Smith, Arnold J. Heynen, Mark F. Bear

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


As in other mammals with binocular vision, monocular lid suture in mice induces bidirectional plasticity: rapid weakening of responses evoked through the deprived eye followed by delayed strengthening of responses through the open eye. It has been proposed that these bidirectional changes occur through three distinct processes: first, deprived-eye responses rapidly weaken through homosynaptic long-term depression (LTD); second, as the period of deprivation progresses, the modification threshold determining the boundary between synaptic depression and synaptic potentiation becomes lower, favouring potentiation; and third, facilitated by the decreased modification threshold, open-eye responses are strengthened via homosynaptic long-term potentiation (LTP). Of these processes, deprived-eye depression has received the greatest attention, and although several alternative hypotheses are also supported by current research, evidence suggests that α-amino-3- hydroxy-5-methyl-4-isoxazolepropionate (AMPA) receptor endocytosis through LTD is a key mechanism. The change in modification threshold appears to occur partly through changes in N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor subunit composition, with decreases in the ratio of NR2A to NR2B facilitating potentiation. Although limited research has directly addressed the question of open-eye potentiation, several studies suggest that LTP could account for observed changes in vivo. This review will discuss evidence supporting this three-stage model, along with outstanding issues in the field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)357-367
Number of pages11
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1515
StatePublished - Feb 12 2009


  • BCM theory
  • Long-term depression
  • Long-term potentiation
  • Metaplasticity
  • Ocular dominance plasticity


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