We investigated the effect of selective whisker trimming on the development of the cortical representation of a whisker deflection in layer 2/3 of rat somatosensory cortex using in vivo voltage-sensitive dye (vsd) imaging. Responses to deflection of D-row whiskers were recorded after trimming of A-row, B-row, and C-row whiskers, referred to as DE pairing, during postnatal development. Animals DE paired from postnatal day (p) 7 to p17 had a significant bias in the spread of the vsd signal, favoring spread toward the concomitantly nondeprived E-row columns. This resulted primarily from a strong decrease in signal spreading into the deprived C-row columns. In contrast, signal spread in control littermates was approximately symmetrical. DE pairing failed to elicit significant changes when begun after p14, thus defining a critical period for this phenomenon. The results suggest that sensory deprivation in this model results in lower connectivity being established between nondeprived columns and adjacent deprived ones.

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