Springer Nature is making Coronavirus research free. View research | View latest news | Sign up for updates

The quantitative effects of dark-rearing and light exposure on the laminar composition and depth distribution of neurons and glia in the visual cortex (area 17) of the rat

  • 44 Accesses

  • 23 Citations


The effects of dark-rearing and light-exposure on the distribution of neurons and glial cells types in the rat visual cortex (area 17) have been investigated. Three groups of animals were studied: i) rats reared in the dark until weaning at 21 days post natum (21 DPN) and subsequently light-exposed for 31 days (Group 21/31); ii) rats darkreared until 52 DPN and then exposed to light for 3 days (Group 3 dL); and iii) rats totally dark-reared until 52 DPN (Group 52 dD). Semithin sections tangential to the pial surface were obtained at sampling intervals 50 μm apart throughout the depth of the left visual cortex. The volume numerical densities of neurons, astroglia, oligodendroglia, and microglia, at each sampling strata in the cortex were calculated using stereological techniques. The laminer density and distribution of neurons was not significantly different between the three groups. In comparison with group 21/31 there was a marked reduction in the densities of astroglia, oligodendroglia, and microglia in lower layer 5 of groups 3 dL and 52 dD. Additionally, the density of microglia in thalamorecipeint layer 4 was greatly increased in group 3 dL compared with groups 21/31 and 52 dD. These results indicate specific alterations in the glial cell composition of the rat visual cortex following periods of dark-rearing and light-exposure. Furthermore, changes in the density of glial cells in layer 5 may reflect functional modifications in neurons projecting to the superior colliculus.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Altman J, Das G (1964) Autoradiographic examination of the effects of enriched environments on the rate of glial multiplication in the adult rat brain. Nature (Lond) 204: 1161–1163

  2. Banker GA (1980) Tropic interactions between astroglia cells and hippocampal neurons in culture. Science 209: 809–810

  3. Beaulieu C, Colonnier M (1983) The number of neurons in the different laminae of the binocular and monocular regions of area 17 in the cat. J Comp Neurol 217: 337–344

  4. Bhide PG, Bedi KS (1984) The effects of environmental diversity on well-fed and previously undernourished rats: I. Body and brain measurements. J Comp Neurol 227: 305–310

  5. Borges S, Berry M (1978) The effects of dark-rearing on the development of the visual cortex of the rat. J Comp Neurol 180: 277–300

  6. Connor JR (1982) A dichotomous response by two populations of layer V pyramidal neurons in the old adult rat visual cortex to differential housing conditions. Brain Res 243: 153–155

  7. Connor JR, Beban SE, Melone JH, Yuen A, Diamond MC (1982) A quantitative Golgi study of the occipital cortex and pyramidal dendritic topology of old adult rats from social or isolated environments. Brain Res 251: 39–44

  8. Chow K (1973) Neuronal changes in the visual system following visual deprivation. In: Jung R (ed) Handbook of sensory physiology, Vol VII/3, Part A. Springer, Berlin, pp 599–627

  9. Cruz-Orive LM (1978) Particle size-shape distributions: the general spheroid problem. II. Stochastic model and practical guide. J Microscop 112: 153–167

  10. Cruz-Orive LM (1979) Size-shape distributions of ellipsoidal particles derived from plane sections. In: Weibel ER (ed) Stereological methods, Vol 2. Academic Press, London

  11. Davies C, Katz HB (1983) The comparative effects of early-life undernutrition and subsequent differential environments on the dendritic branching of pyramidal neurons in the rat visual cortex. J Comp Neurol 218: 345–350

  12. Dean P, Redgrave P (1984a) The superior colliculus and visual neglect in rat and hamster. I. Behavioural evidence. Brain Res Revs 8.2/3: 129–142

  13. Dean P, Redgrave P (1984b) The superior colliculus and visual neglect in rat and hamster. II. Possible mechanisms. Brain Res Revs 8.2/3: 143–154

  14. Dean P, Redgrave P (1984c) The superior colliculus and visual neglect in rat and hamster. III. Functional implications. Brain Res Revs 8.2/3: 155–164

  15. del Rio Hortega P (1932) Microglia. In: Penfield W (ed) Cytology and cellular pathology of the nervous system, Vol. 2. Harper and Rowe (Hoeber), New York, pp 483–534

  16. Diamond MC, Law F, Rhodes H, Lindner B, Rosenzweig MR, Krech D, Bennett EL (1966) Increase in cortical depth measurements and neuron size increases in the cortex of environmentally enriched rats. J Comp Neurol 123: 111–120

  17. Fairen A, Peters A, Saldanha J (1977) A new approach for examining Golgi-impregnated neurons by light- and electronmicroscopy. J Neurocytol 6: 311–337

  18. Gabbott PLA, Stewart MG, Rose SPR (1982) The effects of darkrearing and light-exposure on the neuronal and glial-cell populations in the rat visual cortex. Proceedings of the European Brain and Behaviour Organisation meeting, Groningen, Holland, March 1982

  19. Gabbott PLA, Stewart MG, Rose SPR (1985) The effects of visual deprivation on the distribution of neurons and glia in the visual cortex (area 17) of the rat. Neurosci Lett Suppl 22: S351

  20. Gabbott PLA, Stewart MG (1986) Distribution of neurons and glia in the visual cortex (Area 17) of the adult rat: A quantitative description. Neuroscience (in press)

  21. Globus A, Rosenzweig MR, Bennett EL, Diamond MC (1973) Effects of differential experience on dendritic spine counts in rat cerebral cortex. J Comp Physiol Psychol 82: 175–181

  22. Gundersen HJG (1977) Notes on the estimation of the numerical density of arbitrary profiles: the edge effect. J Microscop 111: 219–223

  23. Hertz L (1979) Functional interactions between neurons and astrocytes. I.Turnover and metabolism of putative amino acid transmitters. Progress in Neurobiology, Vol 13. Pergamon Press, London, pp 277–323

  24. Krech D, Rosenzweig MR, Bennett EL (1966) Environmental impoverishment, social isolation and changes in brain chemistry and anatomy. Physiol Behav 1: 99–104

  25. Ling E, Leblond CP (1973) Investigation of glial cells in semithin sections. II. Variation with age in the number of the various glial cell types in the rat cortex and corpus callosum. J Comp Neurol 149: 72–82

  26. Ling E, Paterson JA, Privat A, Mori S, Leblond CP (1973) Investigation of glial cells in semithin sections. I. Identification of glial cells in the brain of young rats. J Comp Neurol 149: 43–71

  27. Lynch G, Akers RM (1979) Extrinsic influences on the development of afferent topographies in mammalian brain. In: Schmitt FO, Worden FG (eds) The Neurosciences Fourth Study Program. MIT Press, Cambridge MA, pp 957–968

  28. Murabe Y, Sano Y (1982) Morphological studies on neuroglia. V. Microglial cells in the cerebral cortex of the rat, with special reference to their possible involvement in synaptic function. Cell Tissue Res 223: 493–506

  29. Norton WT (1984) Oligodendroglia. In: Agranoff B, Aprison M (eds) Advances in neurochemistry, Vol 5. Plenum Press, New York London

  30. O'Kusky J, Colonnier M (1982) A laminar analysis of the number of Neurons, glia, and synapses in the visual cortex (area 17) of adult macaque monkeys. J Comp Neurol 210: 278–290

  31. Olavarria J, Van Sluyters RC (1983) The projection from striate and extrastriate cortical areas to the superior colliculus in the rat. Brain Res 242: 332–336

  32. Parnavelas JG, Luder R, Pollard SG, Sullivan K, Lieberman AR (1983) A qualitative and quantitative ultrastructural study of glial cells in the developing visual cortex of the rat. Phil. Trans R Soc (Lond B) 301: 55–84

  33. Parnavelas JG, Globus A (1976) The damaging effects of continuous illumination on the morphology of the ratina of the rat. Exp Neurol 51: 171–187

  34. Penfield W (1932) Neuroglia and microglia: the interstitial tissue of the central nervous system. In: Cowdry EV (ed) Special cytology, Vol III. Harper and Rowe (Hoeber), New York, pp 1445–1482

  35. Ryugo R, Ryugo DK, Killackey H (1975) Differential effects of enucleation on two populations of layer V pyramidal cells. Brain Res 88: 554–559

  36. Sherman SM, Spear PD (1982) Organisation of visual pathways in normal and visually deprived cats. Physiol Rev 62, 2: April

  37. Szeligo F, Leblond CP (1977) Responses of the three main types of glial cells of cortex and callosum in rats handled during suckling or exposed to enriched, control, and impoverished environments following weaning. J Comp Neurol 172: 247–264

  38. Valverde F (1968) Structural changes in the area striata of the mouse after enucleation. Exp Brain Res 5: 274–292

  39. Valverde F (1976) Aspects of cortical organisation related to the shape of neurons with intra-cortical axons. J Neurocytol 5: 509–529

  40. Varon JE, Somojen GG (1979) Neuron-glia interactions. Neurosci Res Progr Bull 17 (1): 9–239

  41. Weibel ER (1979) Stereological methods, Vol 1 and 2. Academic Press, London

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to P. L. A. Gabbott.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Gabbott, P.L.A., Stewart, M.G. & Rose, S.P.R. The quantitative effects of dark-rearing and light exposure on the laminar composition and depth distribution of neurons and glia in the visual cortex (area 17) of the rat. Exp Brain Res 64, 225–232 (1986).

Download citation

Key words

  • Visual deprivation
  • Rat
  • Visual cortex
  • Neurons
  • Glia
  • Stereology