Cortical representations of visual information are modified by an animal's visual experience. To investigate the mechanisms in mice, we replaced the coding part of the neural activity-regulated immediate early gene Arc with a GFP gene and repeatedly monitored visual experience-induced GFP expression in adult primary visual cortex by in vivo two-photon microscopy. In Arc-positive GFP heterozygous mice, the pattern of GFP-positive cells exhibited orientation specificity. Daily presentations of the same stimulus led to the reactivation of a progressively smaller population with greater reactivation reliability. This adaptation process was not affected by the lack of Arc in GFP homozygous mice. However, the number of GFP-positive cells with low orientation specificity was greater, and the average spike tuning curve was broader in the adult homozygous compared to heterozygous or wild-type mice. These results suggest a physiological function of Arc in enhancing the overall orientation specificity of visual cortical neurons during the post-eye-opening life of an animal.
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