Active Brains Before Birth

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Science  14 Dec 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5550, pp. 2253
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5550.2253b

The functional development of primate cortical structures is practically undocumented. Much of our understanding comes from experiments on rodents and from descriptive morphology. Khazipov et al. have investigated the ontogeny of hippocampal neurons and circuits in the fetal primate brain by recording from pyramidal cells and interneurons in hippocampal slices, followed by morphological analysis. At mid-gestation, previously silent neurons began to acquire first GABAergic and then glutamatergic synaptic inputs. Concomitantly, apical dendrites developed, and then dendritic spines appeared. Thus, a complex network that can generate spontaneous and paroxysmal synchronized activity was established before birth. Several aspects that appear postnatally in rodents are shifted toward fetal life in the primate, suggesting that these processes may be largely independent of external stimuli and may follow predetermined developmental rules.—PRS

J. Neurosci., in press.

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