Current dogma holds that this basic architecture is entirely genetically determined, with environmental input only playing a role later in development. One of the most famous examples of this idea is the Nobel Prize-winning work of visual neuroscientists David Hubel and Torsten Wiesel, which showed that there is a "critical period" of sensitivity in vision. Their finding was commonly interpreted as a warning that without exposure to basic visual stimuli early in life, even an individual with a healthy brain will be unable to see correctly.
Later discoveries in neural plasticity more optimistically suggested that early deprivation can be overcome, and the brain can even sprout new neurons in specific areas. Nevertheless, this still reinforced the idea that environmental influences might modify neural architecture, but only genetics could establish how cortical areas would be laid out.
In their new study, however, O'Leary and the paper's co-first authors, Shen-Ju Chou and Zoila Babot, post-doctoral researchers in O'Leary's laboratory, show that genetics only provides a broad field in the neo-cortex for visual areas.
When they created mouse mutants that disconnected the link between thalamus and cortex but only after early cortical development was complete, they found that the primary and higher order visual areas failed to differentiate from one anot
|Contact: Kat Kearney|