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Visual System Hyperexcitability and Compromised V1 Receptive Field Properties in Early-Stage Retinitis Pigmentosa in Mice.


Inherited retinal degenerative diseases are a prominent cause of blindness. Although mutations causing death of photoreceptors are mostly known, the pathophysiology downstream in the inner retina and along the visual pathway is incompletely characterized in the earliest disease stages. Here, we investigated retinal, midbrain and cortical visual function using electroretinography (ERG), the optomotor response (OMR), visual evoked potentials (VEPs), respectively, and single unit electrophysiology at the primary visual cortex (V1) in light-adapted juvenile (approximately one-month-old) and young adult (three-month-old) RhoP23H/WT mice, representative of early-stage retinitis pigmentosa (RP). Photopic ERG revealed up to ∼30% hypersensitivity to light in RhoP23H/WT mice, as measured by the light intensity required to generate half-maximal b-wave (I50 parameter). RhoP23H/WT mice also showed increased OMRs toward low spatial frequency (SF) drifting gratings, indicative of visual overexcitation at the midbrain level. At the V1 level, VEPs and single-cell recordings revealed prominent hyperexcitability in the juvenile RhoP23H/WT mice. Mean VEP amplitudes for light ON stimuli were nearly doubled in one-month-old RhoP23H/WT mice compared with controls, and more than doubled for light OFF. Single-cell recordings showed a significantly increased spontaneous V1 neuron firing in the RhoP23H/WT mice, and persistent contrast and temporal sensitivities. In contrast, direction selectivity was severely compromised. Our data suggest that during early RP, the visual pathway becomes hyperexcited. This could have both compensatory and deleterious consequences for visual behavior. Further studies on the mechanisms of hyperexcitability are warranted as this could lead to therapeutic interventions for RP.

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