Canadian Association of Neurosciences review: postnatal development of the mammalian neocortex: role of activity revisited.

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Animals, Cell-Communication, Cell-Differentiation, Gene-Expression-Regulation-Developmental, Humans, Neocortex, Neural-Pathways, Neuronal-Plasticity, Neurotransmitter-Agents, Synapses, Synaptic-Transmission

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Can J Neurol Sci 2006 May; 33(2):158-69.


The mammalian neocortex is the largest structure in the brain, and plays a key role in brain function. A critical period for the development of the neocortex is the early postnatal life, when the majority of synapses are formed and when much of synaptic remodeling takes place. Early studies suggest that initial synaptic connections lack precision, and this rudimentary wiring pattern is refined by experience-related activity through selective elimination and consolidation. This view has been challenged by recent studies revealing the presence of a relatively precise pattern of connections before the onset of sensory experience. The recent data support a model in which specificity of neuronal connections is largely determined by genetic factors. Spontaneous activity is required for the formation of neural circuits, but whether it plays an instructive role is still controversial. Neurotransmitters including acetylcholine, serotonin, and gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) may have key roles in the regulation of spontaneous activity, and in the maturation of synapses in the developing brain.

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