Neural circuits and the cells that comprise them undergo developmental changes in the spatial organization of their connections and in their temporal response properties. Within the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN) of the dorsal thalamus, these changes have pronounced effects on the spatiotemporal receptive fields (STRFs) of neurons. An open and unresolved question is how STRF maturation affects stimulus-evoked correlated activity between pairs of LGN neurons during development. This is an important question to answer because stimulus-evoked correlated activity likely plays a role in establishing the specificity of thalamocortical connectivity and the receptive fields (RFs) of postsynaptic cortical neurons. Using multielectrode recording methods and white noise stimuli, we recorded neural activity from ensembles of LGN neurons in cats across early development. As expected, there was a progressive maturation of the spatial and temporal properties of visual responses. Using drifting bar stimuli and cross-correlation analysis, we also determined the orientation-tuning bandwidth of correlated activity between pairs of LGN neurons at different stages of development (Sillito and Jones, 2002; Andolina et al., 2007; Stanley et al., 2012; Kelly et al., 2014). Despite the larger RFs and slower responses of immature LGN neurons compared with mature neurons, our results show that correlated activity in the LGN was as tightly tuned for orientation early in development as it was in the adult. Closer examination revealed this age-invariant orientation tuning of correlated activity likely involves cellular mechanisms related to spike fatigue in young animals and a progressive decrease in response latency with development.
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