GABAergic Transmission during Brain Development: Multiple Effects at Multiple Stages

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In recent years, considerable progress has been achieved in deciphering the cellular and network functions of GABAergic transmission in the intact developing brain. First, in vivo studies in non-mammalian and mammalian species confirmed the long-held assumption that GABA acts as a mainly depolarizing neurotransmitter at early developmental stages. At the same time, GABAergic transmission was shown to spatiotemporally constrain spontaneous cortical activity, whereas firm evidence for GABAergic excitation in vivo is currently missing. Second, there is a growing body of evidence indicating that depolarizing GABA may contribute to the activity-dependent refinement of neural circuits. Third, alterations in GABA actions have been causally linked to developmental brain disorders and identified as potential targets of timed prophylactic interventions. In this article, we review these major recent findings and argue that both depolarizing and inhibitory GABA actions may be crucial for physiological brain maturation.

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