Development of a functional nervous system is critically dependent on environmental experience, as clearly demonstrated by Hubel and Wiesel?s studies showing disruption of neocortical development by visual deprivation. Despite this knowledge, most studies of visual processing in mice are performed using animals housed in ?standard? conditions optimized for the laboratory setting that likely represent a state of sensory, physical, and social deprivation. Several studies have shown that environmental enrichment of standard laboratory housing can enhance aspects of visual system development and plasticity. However, these individual studies have not quantitatively probed the impact of environmental enrichment across the full extent of visual processing. In order to comprehensively determine the impact of environmental experience on vision, we will measure both visual processing at the level of neural coding and specialization in visual cortex, and visual function through performance on a learned operant task and an innate ethological behavior, prey capture. This work will reveal new avenues for future mechanistic studies of how environmental factors influence a wider range of visual functions, and will enhance the use of mice as a model system for vision.
The visual system can be impacted by environmental experience, both positively and negatively. This will study will provide a comprehensive assessment of the effects of environmental conditions on a range of visual processing, thereby opening up opportunities to improve both normal and impaired visual function.