It has recently been reported that exogenous supply of nerve growth factor prevents the effects of monocular deprivation both in rats and in cats. Here we have extended these experiments to the case of strabismus. Repeated intraventricular injections of nerve growth factor were performed in rats made surgically strabismic early in the critical period. At the end of the critical period the ocular dominance distribution of visual cortical neurons was assessed in strabismic untreated, strabismic nerve growth factor-treated and strabismic Cytochrome C-treated (control) rats by means of extracellular recordings. We found that in rats surgical strabismus causes a consistent loss of binocular neurons. By contrast the treatment with nerve growth factor maintains the normal ocular dominance distribution of neurons in the primary visual cortex. We conclude that nerve growth factor exogenously supplied prevents the effects induced by surgical strabismus in rats and suggest that nerve growth factor has a role in visual cortical plasticity.
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