“Development of the cerebral cortex is influenced by sensory experience during distinct phases of postnatal development known as critical periods. Disruption of experience during a critical period produces neurons that lack specificity for particular stimulus features, such as location in the somatosensory system. Synaptic plasticity is the agent by which sensory experience affects cortical development.”
In this mouse study, the authors describe a developmental critical period that affects plasticity. “Transient neonatal disruption of signaling via the C-terminal domain of “disrupted in schizophrenia 1” (DISC1)—a molecule implicated in psychiatric disorders—resulted in a lack of long-term potentiation (LTP) (persistent strengthening of synapses) and experience-dependent potentiation in adulthood. Long-term depression (LTD) (selective weakening of specific sets of synapses) and reversal of LTD were present, although impaired, in adolescence and absent in adulthood.”
The authors suggest that these changes may form the basis for cognitive deficits associated with DISC1 mutants and the delayed onset of a range of psychiatric symptoms in late adolescence.
Greenhill SD, Juczewski K, de Haan AM, Seaton G, Fox K and Hardingham NR: Adult cortical plasticity depends on an early postnatal critical period. Science 349(6246): 424-427 (2015).

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