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Science. 1996 Nov 15;274(5290):1133-8.

Synaptic activity and the construction of cortical circuits.

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  • 1Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the Department of Neurobiology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Vision is critical for the functional and structural maturation of connections in the mammalian visual system. Visual experience, however, is a subset of a more general requirement for neural activity in transforming immature circuits into the organized connections that subserve adult brain function. Early in development, internally generated spontaneous activity sculpts circuits on the basis of the brain's "best guess" at the initial configuration of connections necessary for function and survival. With maturation of the sense organs, the developing brain relies less on spontaneous activity and increasingly on sensory experience. The sequential combination of spontaneously generated and experience-dependent neural activity endows the brain with an ongoing ability to accommodate to dynamically changing inputs during development and throughout life.

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