Dysregulation of the mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) signaling leads to memory deficits and abnormal social behaviors in adults. However, whether mTORC1 is involved in critical periods of early learning remains largely unexplored. Our study addressed this question by investigating imprinting, a form of learning constrained to a sensitive period that supports filial attachment, in newborn chickens. Imprinting to virtual objects and sounds was assessed after acute manipulations of mTORC1. To further understand the role of mTORC1 during the critical period, structural plasticity was analyzed using DiOlistic labeling of dendritic spines. We found that mTORC1 is required for the emergence of experience-dependent preferences and structural plasticity within brain regions controlling behavior. Furthermore, upon critical period closure, pharmacological activation of the AKT/mTORC1 pathway was sufficient to rescue imprinting across sensory modalities. Thus, our results uncover a novel role of mTORC1 in the formation of imprinted memories and experience-dependent reorganization of neural circuits during a critical period.
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