Effect of dark rearing on the volume of visual cortex (areas 17 and 18) and number of visual cortical cells in young kittens

József Takács, P. Saillour, M. Imbert, M. Bogner, J. Hámori

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The surface area, total volume, and total number of neurons of areas 17 and 18 in one hemisphere of dark‐reared (DR), dark‐reared and light‐exposed (DRL), and normally reared (NR) kittens were studied at the age of 6 weeks. The thickness of the visual cortex was lower by 13% and 11% (area 17) and by 17% and 16% (area 18) in DR and DRL groups, respectively, when compared with similar cortical areas in NR kittens. The surface area values of area 17 were nearly the same in DR and DRL kittens, both being, however, 37% smaller than in NR animals. The surface area of area 18 was significantly smaller than that of area 17 in each group, and was also lower in DR (by 27%) and DRL (by 21%) groups when compared with the NR group. As a consequence of dark rearing, the numerical density of cortical neurons in area 17 amounted to about double of the value observed in normally reared kittens and was also significantly higher in area 18. The numerical density of nerve cells of DRL kittens fell between the DR and NR groups. The total cortical volume of area 17 was similar in DR and DRL groups but it was by 46% (DR) and by 44% (DRL) smaller than in NR Kittens. In each experimental group, the total volume of area 18 was significantly smaller than that of area 17. The cortical volume of area 18 was also smaller than in the NR group by 39% and 34% in DR and DRL groups, respectively. In DR and NR kittens, the total numbers of neurons in areas 17 (DR =; 26.4 million, NR =; 25.7 million) and 18 (DR =; 8.5 million, NR =; 9.0 million) were essentially similar. In the DRL groups a significantly smaller number of cortical neurons was found both in area 17 (21.5 million) and in area 18 (6.8 million). It is concluded that, in spite of considerable differences in the cortical thickness, surface area, numerical density, and total cortical volume, the absolute numbers of neurons in area 17 and 18 of visually deprived (DR) and NR kittens do not differ at 6 weeks of age. The main deficit in cortical organization following dark rearing, therefore, appears to be confined mainly to the neuropil, as a result of an underdevelopment of neuronal processes and of depressed synaptic organization. The significant decrease of the total cortical cell number both in areas 17 and 18 in the DRL group, in which dark rearing was followed by a brief exposure to light, is apparently the consequence of a rapid cell loss in the visual cortex. © 1992 Wiley‐Liss, Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-459
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Neuroscience Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1992



  • development
  • kitten
  • neuronal number

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience

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