Environmental enrichment rescues binocular matching of orientation preference in the mouse visual cortex

Jared N. Levine, Hui Chen, Yu Gu, Jianhua Cang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Neural circuits are shaped by experience during critical periods of development. Sensory deprivation during these periods permanently compromises an organism’s ability to perceive the outside world. In the mouse visual system, normal visual experience during a critical period in early life drives the matching of individual cortical neurons’ orientation preferences through the two eyes, likely a key step in the development of binocular vision. Here, in mice of both sexes, we show that the binocular matching process is completely blocked by monocular deprivation spanning the entire critical period. We then show that 3 weeks of environmental enrichment (EE), a paradigm of enhanced sensory, motor, and cognitive stimulation, is sufficient to rescue binocular matching to the level seen in unmanipulated mice. In contrast, 6 weeks of conventional housing only resulted in a partial rescue. Finally, we use two-photon calcium imaging to track the matching process chronically in individual cells during EE-induced rescue. We find that for cells that are clearly dominated by one of the two eyes, the input representing the weaker eye changes its orientation preference to align with that of the dominant eye. These results thus reveal ocular dominance as a key driver of the binocular matching process, and suggest a model whereby the dominant input instructs the development of the weaker input. Such a mechanism may operate in the development of other systems that need to integrate inputs from multiple sources to generate normal neuronal functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5822-5833
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 14 2017


  • Adult plasticity
  • Critical period
  • Environmental enrichment
  • Orientation selectivity
  • Two-photon imaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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