Most sensory systems have a limited critical period of development based on sensory input and high levels of plasticity. Is this the better way, or would it be better to have increased plasticity throughout life? Daily encounters play an important role in shaping our neural circuits in the brain. The changes that occur as a result are called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is not attributed to one type of change, but rather encompasses multiple processes which occur during a person’s lifetime. Neuroplasticity is most commonly observed in neurons and glia cells. During normal development, neuroplasticity is first evident when the brain starts processing sensory information through adulthood such as acquiring knowledge and motor development. Also neuroplasticity acts as a repairing mechanism to make up for lost function via brain damage. Moreover, the brain can be influenced by an individual's environment and his/her daily interactions with other individuals. Although plasticity takes place throughout a human being’s lifetime, there are specific periods in a human’s life where plasticity is at its max and other periods of time where plasticity is less predominant. This is known as the critical period. It is basically a period in a lifetime when the organism is extremely sensitive to a certain stimulus important for a specific stage of development. This article discusses the difference between the visual cortex critical period of dark reared and normal reared cats and mice. Authors have identified a gene called α-chimaerin that plays a crucial role in this critical period. The gene resides in the visual cortex of cats and mice. In cats, the critical period neuronal plasticity stays low until 3 postnatal weeks then peaks at 5 weeks and consequently declines till 20 weeks of age Eventually it disappears at the age of a year(Yang et al. 2011). Mice basically follow the same pattern but at a shorter course of time. Scientists found out that normal cats reared in...
References: Yang, C, Zheng, Y, Kiser, P, Mower, G. 2011.Identification of α-Chimaerin as a Candidate Gene for Critical Period Neuronal Plasticity in Cat and Mouse Visual Cortex. BMC Neurosci 12:70.
Li, RW , Ngo, C , Nguyen, J, Levi, DM. 2011. Video-Game Play Induces Plasticity in the Visual System of Adults with Amblyopia. PLOS BIOLOGY 9(8): e1001135.
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