Spontaneous patterns of activity in the developing visual system may play an important role in shaping the brain for function. During the period 4–9 dpf (days post-fertilization), larval zebrafish learn to hunt prey, a behavior that is critically dependent on the optic tectum. However, how spontaneous activity develops in the tectum over this period and the effect of visual experience are unknown. Here we performed two-photon calcium imaging of GCaMP6s zebrafish larvae at all days from 4 to 9 dpf. Using recently developed graph theoretic techniques, we found significant changes in both single-cell and population activity characteristics over development. In particular, we identified days 5–6 as a critical moment in the reorganization of the underlying functional network. Altering visual experience early in development altered the statistics of tectal activity, and dark rearing also caused a long-lasting deficit in the ability to capture prey. Thus, tectal development is shaped by both intrinsic factors and visual experience.
Year of publication
Current Biology, Volume 27, Issue 16, Pages 2407-2419.e4