Early network activity propagates bidirectionally between hippocampus and cortex

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Spontaneous activity in the developing brain helps refine neuronal connections before the arrival of sensory-driven neuronal activity. In mouse neocortex during the first postnatal week, waves of spontaneous activity originating from pacemaker regions in the septal nucleus and piriform cortex propagate through the neocortex. Using high-speed Ca2+ imaging to resolve the spatiotemporal dynamics of wave propagation in parasagittal mouse brain slices, we show that the hippocampus can act as an additional source of neocortical waves. Some waves that originate in the hippocampus remain restricted to that structure, while others pause at the hippocampus-neocortex boundary and then propagate into the neocortex. Blocking GABAergic neurotransmission decreases the likelihood of wave propagation into neocortex, whereas blocking glutamatergic neurotransmission eliminates spontaneous and evoked hippocampal waves. A subset of hippocampal and cortical waves trigger Ca2+ waves in astrocytic networks after a brief delay. Hippocampal waves accompanied by Ca2+ elevation in astrocytes are more likely to propagate into the neocortex. Finally, we show that two structures in our preparation that initiate waves—the hippocampus and the piriform cortex—can be electrically stimulated to initiate propagating waves at lower thresholds than the neocortex, indicating that the intrinsic circuit properties of those regions are responsible for their pacemaker function. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Develop Neurobiol 76: 661–672, 2016

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