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Title: Neuronal circuits of experience-dependent plasticity in the primary visual cortex
Author: Dylda, Evelyn
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 4080
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2018
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Our ability to learn relies on the potential of neuronal networks to change through experience. The primary visual cortex (V1) has become a popular system for studying how experience shapes cortical neuronal networks. Experience-dependent plasticity in V1 has been extensively studied in young animals, revealing that experiences in early postnatal life substantially shape neuronal activity in the developing cortex. In contrast, less is known about how experiences modify the representation of visual stimuli in the adult brain. In addition, adult experience-dependent plasticity remains largely unexplored in neurodevelopmental disorders. To address this issue, we established a two-photon calcium imaging set-up, suitable for chronic imaging of neuronal activity in awake-behaving mice. We implemented protocols for the reliable expression of genetically encoded calcium indicators (GCaMP6), for the implantation of a chronic cranial window and for the analysis of chronic calcium imaging data. This approach enables us to monitor the activity of hundreds of neurons across days, and up to 4-5 weeks. We used this technique to determine whether the daily exposure to high-contrast gratings would induce experience-dependent changes in V1 neuronal activity. We monitored the activity of putative excitatory neurons and of three non-overlapping populations of inhibitory interneurons in layer 2/3 of adult mice freely running on a cylindrical treadmill. We compared the results obtained from mice that were exposed daily to either a high-contrast grating or to a grey screen and characterized their neuronal response properties. Our results did not reveal significant differences in neuronal properties between these two groups, suggesting a lack of stimulus-specific plasticity in our experimental conditions. However, we did observe and characterize, in both groups, a wide range of activity changes in individual cells over time. We finally applied the same method to investigate impairments in experience-dependent plasticity in a mouse model of intellectual disability (ID), caused by synaptic GTPase-activating protein (SynGAP) haploinsufficiency. SynGAP haploinsufficiency is a common de novo genetic cause of non-syndromic ID and is considered a Type1 risk for autism spectrum disorders. While the impact of Syngap gene mutations has been thoroughly studied at the molecular and cellular levels, neuronal network deficits in vivo remain largely unexplored. In this study, we compared in vivo neuronal activity before and after monocular deprivation in adult mutant mice and littermate controls. These results revealed differences in baseline network activity between both experimental groups. These impairments in cortical neuronal network activity may underlie sensory and cognitive deficits in patients with Syngap gene mutations.
Supervisor: Rochefort, Nathalie ; Duguid, Ian Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: neuronal networks ; experience-dependent neuronal changes ; neuronal activity ; primary visual cortex ; synaptic GTPase-activating protein ; Syngap