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Perspect Dev Neurobiol. 1995;2(4):409-19.

Development of excitatory and inhibitory postsynaptic potentials in the rat neocortex.

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Institute of Physiology, University of Munich, Germany.


The postnatal development of synaptic potentials in the rat neocortex is characterized by the sequential appearance of functional excitatory and inhibitory synapses. Morphological and electrophysiological studies provided evidence that at early stages of development, pyramidal cells are extensively coupled to each other, presumably via gap junctions. Thus, immature neurons are able to communicate through pathways that are not available or only weakly expressed in the mature neocortex. During the very early postnatal period, excitatory synaptic inputs prevail. Excitatory postsynaptic potentials (EPSPs) are characteristically long in duration and show high sensitivity to frequent stimulation. Although spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) and mature responses to exogenously applied gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) have been described during the first postnatal week, evoked IPSPs do not develop before postnatal day 10 (P10). During the period of maximum synaptogenesis (P11 to P20), GABA-mediated synaptic inhibition develops and pyramidal cells respond to afferent activation with efficient EPSPs and IPSPs. These postsynaptic potentials gradually mature during the late postnatal period. The delayed development of synaptic inhibition in the neocortex simultaneously promotes synaptic plasticity while increasing seizure susceptibility. On the one hand, the functional lack of synaptic inhibition during early stages of development enables a period of enhanced neuronal activity and augmented synaptic plasticity necessary to form proper synaptic connections. On the other hand, the absence of inhibitory control over excitatory processes increases the vulnerability of the developing neocortex to seizure activity during postnatal ontogenesis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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