Retained Plasticity and Substantial Recovery of Rod-Mediated Visual Acuity at the Visual Cortex in Blind Adult Mice with Retinal Dystrophy

Koji M. Nishiguchi, Kosuke Fujita, Naoyuki Tokashiki, Hiroshi Komamura, Sayaka Takemoto-Kimura, Hiroyuki Okuno, Haruhiko Bito, Toru Nakazawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


In patients born blind with retinal dystrophies, understanding the critical periods of cortical plasticity is important for successful visual restoration. In this study, we sought to model childhood blindness and investigate the plasticity of visual pathways. To this end, we generated double-mutant (Pde6ccpfl1/cpfl1Gnat1IRD2/IRD2) mice with absent rod and cone photoreceptor function, and we evaluated their response for restoring rod (GNAT1) function through gene therapy. Despite the limited effectiveness of gene therapy in restoring visual acuity in patients with retinal dystrophy, visual acuity was, unexpectedly, successfully restored in the mice at the level of the primary visual cortex in this study. This success in visual restoration, defined by changes in the quantified optokinetic response and pattern visually evoked potential, was achieved regardless of the age at treatment (up to 16 months). In the contralateral visual cortex, cortical plasticity, tagged with light-triggered transcription of Arc, was also restored after the treatment in blind mice carrying an Arc promoter-driven reporter gene, dVenus. Our results demonstrate the remarkable plasticity of visual circuits for one of the two photoreceptor mechanisms in older as well as younger mice with congenital blindness due to retinal dystrophies. Nishiguchi et al. show that recovery of rod-mediated visual acuity is possible at the level of the visual cortex after functional restoration of the rods, even in adults. The remarkable plasticity of visual circuits shown provides an important insight into the restoration of vision.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2397-2406
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Oct 3


  • cortical plasticity
  • gene therapy
  • photoreceptors
  • retinal degeneration


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