Development and plasticity of the functional laminar mesoscale organization of the primary auditory cortex

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Early sensory experience is fundamental for proper structural and functional organization of the brain. A brain region that particularly relies on sensory input during a critical period of development is the primary auditory cortex (A1). The functional architecture of A1 in adult mammals has been widely studied on a macroscale and single-cell level, and it is evident that this sensory area is characterized by a tonotopic gradient of frequency preference and that individual auditory neurons are tuned to complex features of acoustic stimuli. However, the development of microcircuits within A1 and how experience shapes this mesoscale organization during different plasticity windows is not known. The work in this dissertation uses in vivo two-photon calcium imaging in mice to investigate how the population dynamics of auditory neurons within thalamorecipient layer 4 and supragranular layers 2/3 change over development – from before ear opening, through the critical period for auditory spectral tuning, and on to mature adult circuitry. Furthermore, this dissertation explores how brief visual deprivation has the power to initiate compensatory, cross-modal plasticity mechanisms and restructure network circuitry in the adult auditory cortex, after the critical period for developmental plasticity has closed. Results from these studies fill crucial gaps in our understanding of experience-dependent cortical circuit development and refinement by showing that the spatial representation of sound frequency is shaped by sensory experience, teasing apart the underlying laminar-specific differences in microcircuitry changes, and indicating an overall dissociation of plasticity of single-cell, mesoscale, and macroscale network properties.