Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Summary The lobus parolfactorius (LPO) of the chick has been shown to undergo an increase in the mean synaptic numerical density (Nv syn) in response to one-trial passive avoidance learning (Stewart et al. 1987). The present study was undertaken in order to describe the pattern of normal development of synapses in the LPO, to further investigate the significance of this plastic response. The LPO's from each hemisphere of pre-hatch (16 days), and post-hatch (1 day, 9 day and 22 day old) chicks were processed for electron microscopy. Synapses were classified into asymmetric spine, asymmetric shaft, symmetric spine, and symmetric shaft synapses, on the basis of the density of the post-synaptic thickening and the nature of the post-synaptic target. A 3-dimensional stereological probe was used (the ‘disector’) to calculate Nv syp, and mean projected height (H syp) of the post-synaptic density (PSD). Mean values for each age and hemisphere were compared with a 2-way analysis of variance test using paired samples. A six-fold increase in Nv syp was seen between 16 days in ovo, and 9 days post-hatch. There was a hemispheric asymmetry at 9 days post-hatch, with the left hemisphere LPO containing 1.6 times as many synapses per μm-3. There was a subsequent period of reduction in synaptic density in the left hemisphere LPO between 9 and 22 days post-hatch. The Nv of all classes of synapse increased with age, but the proportions of the symmetrical synapses with respect to the total number of synapses, decreased with age. This decrease was of a similar magnitude for each hemisphere. A hemispheric difference was seen in post-hatch asymmetric synapses, with a greater proportion of asymmetric spine synapses in the left hemisphere. The magnitude of the hemispheric asymmetry was constant throughout the 3 week period of post-hatch development, but was not present in pre-hatch chicks. The PSD increased in length in each hemisphere by approximately 40% between post-hatch day 1 and post-hatch day 9. These data show that the LPO contains a synaptic population which undergoes substantial modification during the first week post-hatch. An asymmetry exists at post-hatch day 9 which is not present at the earlier ages investigated, nor indeed after 22 days post-hatch. This may have significance with regard to studies of passive avoidance learning in the one-day old chick, where an increase in both the size and number of synapses in the LPO has been demonstrated (Stewart et al. 1987). It is possible that ‘training’, in this situation, may simply enhance the timing of synaptic events that result as a consequence of normal development.
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