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J Neurosci Methods. 2008 Apr 30;169(2):405-16. Epub 2007 Nov 7.

Homeostasis of neuronal avalanches during postnatal cortex development in vitro.

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Section on Critical Brain Dynamics, National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Cortical networks in vivo and in vitro are spontaneously active in the absence of inputs, generating highly variable bursts of neuronal activity separated by up to seconds of quiescence. Previous measurements in adult rat cortex revealed an intriguing underlying organization of these dynamics, termed neuronal avalanches, which is indicative of a critical network state. Here we demonstrate that neuronal avalanches persist throughout development in cortical slice cultures from newborn rats. More specifically, we find that in spite of large variations of average rate in activity, spontaneous bursts occur with power-law distributed sizes (exponent -1.5) and a critical branching parameter close to 1. Our findings suggest that cortical networks homeostatically regulate a critical state during postnatal maturation.

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