As the residual vision following a traumatic optic nerve injury can spontaneously recover over time, we explored the plasticity of cortical networks during the early post-optic nerve crush (ONC) phase. Using in vivo wide-field calcium imaging on awake Thy1-GCaMP6s mice, we characterized resting state and evoked cortical activity before, during, and 30 days after ONC. The recovery of monocular visual acuity and depth perception was evaluated at the same time points. Cortical responses to an LED flash decreased in the contralateral hemisphere in the primary visual cortex and in the secondary visual areas following the ONC, but was partially rescued between 3 and 5 days post-ONC, remaining stable thereafter. The connectivity between visual and non-visual regions was disorganized after the crush, as shown by a decorrelation, but correlated activity was restored 30 days after the injury. The number of surviving retinal ganglion cells dramatically dropped and remained low. At the behavioral level, the ONC resulted in visual acuity loss on the injured side and an increase in visual acuity with the non-injured eye. In conclusion, our results show a reorganization of connectivity between visual and associative cortical areas after an ONC, which is indicative of spontaneous cortical plasticity.
bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience