Changes in the axon terminals of primary afferents from a single vibrissa in the rat trigeminal nuclei after active touch deprivation or exposure to an enriched environment.
Abstract: Lasting modifications of sensory input induce structural and functional changes in the brain, but the involvement of primary sensory neurons in this plasticity has been practically ignored. Here we examine qualitatively and quantitatively the central axonal terminations of a population of trigeminal ganglion neurons whose peripheral axons innervate a single mystacial vibrissa. Vibrissa follicles are heavily innervated by myelinated and unmyelinated fibers that exit the follicle mainly through a single deep vibrissal nerve (DVN). We made intraneural injections of a mixture of cholera-toxin B (CTB) and isolectin B4, tracers for myelinated and unmyelinated fibers respectively, in three groups of young adult rats: controls, animals subjected to chronic haptic touch deprivation by unilateral whisker trimming, and rats exposed for two months to environmental enrichment. The regional and laminar pattern of terminal arborizations in the trigeminal nuclei of the brain stem did not show gross changes after sensory input modification. However, there were significant and widespread increases in the number and size of CTB-labeled varicosities in the enriched condition, and a prominent expansion in both parameters in laminae III-IV of the caudal division of the spinal nucleus in the whisker trimming condition. No obvious changes were detected in IB4-labeled terminals in laminae I-II. These results show that a prolonged exposure to changes in sensory input without any neural damage is capable of inducing structural changes in terminals of primary afferents in mature animals, and highlight the importance of peripheral structures as the presumed earliest players in sensory experience-dependent plasticity.
Universal identifier: http://hdl.handle.net/10641/1347
- MEDICINA