The visual cortex is organized into retinotopic maps that preserve an orderly representation of the visual world, achieved by topographically precise inputs from the lateral geniculate nucleus. We show here that geniculocortical mapping is imprecise when the waves of spontaneous activity in the retina during the first postnatal week are disrupted genetically. This anatomical mapping defect is present by postnatal day 8 and has functional consequences, as revealed by optical imaging and microelectrode recording in adults. Pharmacological disruption of these retinal waves during the first week phenocopies the mapping defect, confirming both the site and the timing of the disruption in neural activity responsible for the defect. Analysis shows that the geniculocortical miswiring is not a trivial or necessary consequence of the retinogeniculate defect. Our findings demonstrate that disrupting early spontaneous activity in the eye alters thalamic connections to the cortex.
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