Jan W Kurzawski, Claudia Lunghi, Laura Biagi, Michela Tosetti, Maria Concetta Morrone, Paola Binda
Short-term plasticity in the human visual thalamus
While there is evidence that the visual cortex retains a potential for plasticity in adulthood, less is known about the subcortical stages of visual processing. Here, we asked whether short-term ocular dominance plasticity affects the human visual thalamus. We addressed this question in normally sighted adult humans, using ultra-high field (7T) magnetic resonance imaging combined with the paradigm of short-term monocular deprivation. With this approach, we previously demonstrated transient shifts of perceptual eye dominance and ocular dominance in visual cortex (Binda et al., 2018). Here, we report evidence for short-term plasticity in the ventral division of the pulvinar (vPulv), where the deprived eye representation was enhanced over the nondeprived eye. This vPulv plasticity was similar as previously seen in visual cortex and it was correlated with the ocular dominance shift measured behaviorally. In contrast, there was no effect of monocular deprivation in two adjacent thalamic regions: dorsal pulvinar and Lateral Geniculate Nucleus. We conclude that the visual thalamus retains potential for short-term plasticity in adulthood; the plasticity effect differs across thalamic subregions, possibly reflecting differences in their corticofugal connectivity.