Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
The local synaptic connectivity in the superficial gray layer of the superior colliculus (SC) was assessed following retinal ganglion cell axonal regeneration through a peripheral nerve graft into the SC of Lister Hooded rats, using in vitro brain slice techniques. Repair was effected between the ipsilateral eye and SC, following bilateral lesion of optic nerves and ablation of ipsilateral occipital cortex. Deafferentation surgery alone resulted in a complete loss of synaptic potentials of extrinsic origin, once both retinal and cortical inputs were removed. Stimulation of graft insertion sites elicited synaptic responses comprising monosynaptic and network-mediated depolarising events. This activity, together with similar spontaneous bursts of depolarising events and action potential firing, was generated by the activation of non-N-methyl-d-aspartate glutamate receptors. This behaviour may reflect the development of a local recurrent synaptic connectivity following the repair surgery, as both evoked and spontaneous responses developed into large long-lasting bursts of excitatory activity when inhibition mediated by GABA receptors was blocked. These results suggest that the ultrastructural changes in the superficial layers of the SC resulting from deafferentation are reflected functionally at the synaptic level in the target structure even after repair. Such changes are likely to compromise the ability of the target structure to function normally during information processing. Therefore, although axons regenerating along peripheral nerve grafts can make functional synaptic connections, their efficacy in activating the target structure will probably be compromised by local changes in synaptic connectivity.
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