The development of human visual cortex and clinical implications
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The primary visual cortex (V1) is the first cortical area that processes visual information. Normal development of V1 depends on binocular vision during the critical period, and age-related losses of vision are linked with neurobiological changes in V1. Animal studies have provided important details about the neurobiological mechanisms in V1 that support normal vision or are changed by visual diseases. There is very little information, however, about those neurobiological mechanisms in human V1. That lack of information has hampered the translation of biologically inspired treatments from preclinical models to effective clinical treatments. We have studied human V1 to characterize the expression of neurobiological mechanisms that regulate visual perception and neuroplasticity. We have identified five stages of development for human V1 that start in infancy and continue across the life span. Here, we describe these stages, compare them with visual and anatomical milestones, and discuss implications for translating treatments for visual disorders that depend on neuroplasticity of V1 function.
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