Sensory systems do not work in isolation; instead, they show interactions that are specifically uncovered during sensory loss. To identify and characterize these interactions, we investigated whether visual deprivation leads to functional enhancement in primary auditory cortex (A1). We compared sound-evoked responses of A1 neurons in visually deprived animals to those from normally reared animals. Here, we show that visual deprivation leads to improved frequency selectivity as well as increased frequency and intensity discrimination performance of A1 neurons. Furthermore, we demonstrate invitro that in adults visual deprivation strengthens thalamocortical (TC) synapses in A1, but not in primary visual cortex (V1). Because deafening potentiated TC synapses in V1, but not A1, crossmodal TC potentiation seems to be a general property of adult cortex. Our results suggest that adults retain the capability for crossmodal changes whereas such capability is absent within a sensory modality. Thus, multimodal training paradigms might be beneficial in sensory-processing disorders.
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