Loss of a sensory modality elicits both unimodal changes in the deprived cortex and cross-modal alterations in the remaining sensory systems. Unimodal changes are proposed to recruit the deprived cortex for processing the remaining senses, while cross-modal changes are thought to refine processing of spared senses. Hence coordinated unimodal and cross-modal changes are likely beneficial. Despite this expectation, we report in mice that losing behaviorally relevant patterned vision is sufficient to trigger cross-modal synaptic changes in the primary somatosensory cortex barrel fields, but is insufficient to drive unimodal synaptic plasticity in visual cortex (V1), which requires a complete loss of visual activity. In addition, cross-modal changes depend on whisker inputs. Our results demonstrate that unimodal and cross-modal synaptic plasticity occur independently of each other and rely on distinct sensory requirements.
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