The primary visual cortex (area 17) of the Old World monkey is divided into alternating right- and left-eye dominance columns1-3 that are highly modifiable by visual experience during a critical period in development but display little morphological or physiological plasticity during adult life 4,5. However, changes in immunocytochemical staining for a calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase occur in visual cortical neurones of adult monkeys after brief monocular deprivation6 and concentrations of putative neurotransmitters or their related enzymes can be altered with changes in neuronal activity in other systems7-9. We therefore examined the effects of monocular deprivation on the immunocytochemical staining for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and its synthetic enzyme, glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD), in adult monkey area 17. The staining for GABA and GAD in neuronal somata and terminals was markedly reduced within ocular dominance columns associated with a removed or a visually deprived eye, suggesting that the GABA concentration in cortical neurones may depend on their levels of activity. Thus area 17 of adult monkeys may retain a greater degree of plasticity than previously recognized and sensory experience can profoundly affect transmitter levels, in the cortex, apparently by regulating levels of a synthetic enzyme.
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