PerspectiveNeuroscience

Embryonic neural activity wires the brain

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Science  07 Jun 2019:
Vol. 364, Issue 6444, pp. 933-934
DOI: 10.1126/science.aax8048

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Summary

The development of many sensory systems commonly involves patterned spontaneous activity of neurons, in which nearby neurons fire synchronously, forming waves of activity that propagate throughout a neural circuit. In concert with sensory experience and molecular factors, patterned spontaneous activity is critical for the formation of sensory maps, which are spatial representations in the brain of the sensory features they encode. The initial establishment of sensory maps is thought to be driven by molecular cues and later refined by neural activity, initially through patterned spontaneous activity and later by sensory-evoked activity. On page 987 of this issue, Antón-Bolaños et al. (1) use the mouse whisker system to show that at the earliest stages of innervation to the cortex during brain development, patterned spontaneous activity is required for the formation of functional sensory maps.