The role of postnatal experience in sculpting cortical circuitry, while long appreciated, is poorly understood at the level of cell types. In their paper published by Cell, Profs. Karthik Shekar (UCB) and S. Lawrence Zipursky (UCLA), along with their students (including Salwan Butrus, a PhD and CCB Designated Emphasis student), addressed this in their research describing the mouse primary visual cortex using single-nucleus RNA sequencing, visual deprivation, genetics, and functional imaging. By combining a variety of techniques, they demonstrated that the critical period selectively impacts certain cell types in the visual cortex compared to others. While their paper focuses on how critical periods regulate the development of the visual cortex in the mouse, their results have important implications for critical periods more generally. Through their research, they were able to demonstrate that postnatal experience specifies a specific set of cortical neuronal cell types and expression of specific genes regulating the formation of connections between them. This surprising discovery establishes a new principle of brain development and has important implications for early brain development in children.
You can read the full press release here.