The mouse visual system is immature when the eyes open two weeks after birth. As in other mammals, some of the maturation that occurs in the subsequent weeks is known to depend on visual experience. Development of the retina, which as the first stage of vision provides the visual information to the brain, also depends on light-driven activity for proper development but has been less well studied than visual cortical development. The critical properties for retinal encoding of images include detection of contrast and responsiveness to the broad range of temporal stimulus frequencies present in natural stimuli. Here we show that contrast detection threshold and temporal frequency response characteristics of ON and OFF retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which are poor at eye opening, subsequently undergo maturation, improving RGC performance. Further, we find that depriving mice of visual experience from before birth by rearing them in the dark causes ON and OFF RGCs to have smaller receptive field centers but does not affect their contrast detection threshold development. The modest developmental increase in temporal frequency responsiveness of RGCs in mice reared on a normal light cycle was inhibited by dark rearing only in ON but not OFF RGCs. Thus, these RGC response characteristics are in many ways unaffected by the experience-dependent changes to synaptic and spontaneous activity known to occur in the mouse retina in the two weeks after eye opening, but specific differences are apparent in the ON vs. OFF RGC populations.
- Activity-dependent development
- Contrast sensitivity
- Retinal ganglion cell receptive field
- Visual experience
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Developmental Neuroscience
- Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience