Activity-dependent development and synaptic plasticity

Neural activity is often required for the later stages of synaptic refinement during brain development. It is thought that learning rules acting at the individual synapse level, which specify how pre- and postsynaptic activity lead to changes in synaptic efficacy, underlie such activity-dependent development. Such learning rules also likely function in the adult brain to govern learning and memory.

Unfortunately, in most cases, it is not clear what the desired synaptic connectivity is, nor how the system-level in vivo activity patterns manifest at individual synapses. As a result it is difficult to determine how synaptic plasticity functions in vivo. The activity-dependent refinement of connections between retina and downstream targets (LGN and superior colliculus) is one of the few systems where both the patterning of connectivity, and the population-level activity is relatively well understood. Refinement of retinotopy and segregation of eye-specific layering is largely driven by spontaneous activity in the retina before the onset of vision. As a result, we use this system to understand the activity-dependent processes acting at the synaptic and cellular level to guide development.

Synaptic plasticity in development

  • Butts DA, Kanold PO (2010) The applicability of spike time dependent plasticity to development. Frontiers in Synaptic Neuroscience 2: 30. [Full text]
  • Goddard CA, Butts DA, Shatz CJ (2007) Requirement for MHC Class I in synaptic scaling. PNAS 104: 6828-33.
  • Lu HC, Butts DA, Kaeser PS, She WC, Janz R, Crair MC (2006) Role of efficient neurotransmitter release in barrel map development. Journal of Neuroscience 26: 2692-703.

Retinogeniculate development

  • Xu HP, Furman M, Mineur YS, Chen H, King SL, Zenisek D, Zhou ZJ, Butts DA, Tian N, Picciotto, MR, Crair MC (2011). An instructive role for patterned spontaneous retinal activity in mouse visual map development. Neuron 70: 1115-27.
  • Butts DA, Kanold PO, Shatz CJ (2007) A burst-based “Hebbian” learning rule at retinogeniculate synapses links retinal waves to activity-dependent refinement. PLoS Biology 5: e61. [Full text]

Retinal waves

  • Butts DA (2002) Retinal Waves: Implications for developmental learning rules. The Neuroscientist 8: 243-253. [PDF]
  • Butts DA, Rokhsar DS (2001) The information content of spontaneous retinal waves. Journal of Neuroscience 21: 961-973. [PDF]
  • Feller MB, Butts DA, Aaron HL, Rokhsar DS, Shatz CJ (1997) Dynamic processes shape spatiotemporal properties of retinal waves. Neuron 19: 293-306. [PDF]