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Experience-dependent modulation of the visual evoked potential: testing effect sizes, retention over time, and associations with age in 415 healthy individuals

By Mathias Valstad, Torgeir Moberget, Daniël Roelfs, Nora B. Slapø, Clara M.F. Timpe, Dani Beck, Genevieve Richard, Linn Sofie Sæther, Beathe Haatveit, Knut Andre Skaug, Jan Egil Nordvik, Christoffer Hatlestad-Hall, Gaute T. Einevoll, Tuomo Mäki-Marttunen, Lars T. Westlye, Erik G. Jönsson, Ole A Andreassen, Torbjørn Elvsåshagen

Posted 28 Jan 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.01.27.916692

Experience-dependent modulation of the visual evoked potential (VEP) is a promising proxy measure of synaptic plasticity in the cerebral cortex. However, existing studies are limited by small to moderate sample sizes as well as by considerable variability in how VEP modulation is quantified. In the present study, we used a large sample (n = 415) of healthy volunteers to compare different quantifications of VEP modulation with regards to effect sizes and retention of the modulation effect over time. We observed significant modulation for VEP components C1 (Cohen's d = 0.53), P1 (d = 0.66), N1 (d = -0.27), N1b (d = -0.66), but not P2 (p = 0.1), and in one time-frequency cluster (~30 Hz and ~70 ms post-stimulus; d = -0.48), 2-4 minutes after 2 Hz prolonged visual stimulation. For components N1 (d = -0.21) and N1b (d = -0.38), as well for the time-frequency cluster (d = -0.33), this effect was retained after 54-56 minutes. Moderate to high correlations (rho = [0.39, 0.69]) between modulation at different postintervention blocks revealed a relatively high temporal stability in the modulation effect for each VEP component. However, different VEP components also showed markedly different temporal retention patterns. Finally, P1 modulation correlated positively with age (t = 5.26), and was larger for female participants (t = 3.91), with no effects of either age or sex on N1 and N1b potentiation. These results provide strong support for VEP modulation, and especially N1b modulation, as a robust measure of synaptic plasticity, but underscore the need to differentiate between components, and to control for demographic confounders.

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