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Science  05 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6043, pp. 675-677
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6043.675-d

Information processing in the brain occurs by the selective recruitment of nerve cells into transient assemblies, whose coordinated patterns of activity underlie different cognitive or behavioral functions. Such assemblies comprise groups of pyramidal neurons that fire together, in determined temporal order. Little is known, however, about how individual neurons are bound into such functional groups. Bähner et al. combined electrophysiological recordings in brain slices with computer modeling to describe a cellular mechanism that may underlie assembly formation in hippocampal networks. By focusing on complexes involved in memory consolidation, they found that pyramidal cells formed two clearly distinct functional groups with respect to their participation in such complexes. Participating pyramidal cells had peculiar properties: They generated antidromic axonal action potentials that were facilitated by axonal GABAA receptors. Classical perisomatic GABAergic inhibition, in contrast, suppressed background activity and ensured that nonparticipating neurons were silenced during these periods. These results provide a mechanism of assembly formation in oscillating networks.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 108, 10.1073/pnas.1103546108 (2011).

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