5 years ago

Blurring the boundaries: developmental and activity-dependent determinants of neural circuits

The human brain comprises approximately 100 billion neurons that express a diverse, and often subtype-specific, set of neurotransmitters and voltage-gated ion channels. Given this enormous complexity, a fundamental question is how is this achieved? The acquisition of neurotransmitter phenotype was viewed as being set by developmental programs ‘hard wired’ into the genome. By contrast, the expression of neuron-specific ion channels was considered to be highly dynamic (i.e., ‘soft wired’) and shaped largely by activity-dependent mechanisms. Recent evidence blurs this distinction by showing that neurotransmitter phenotype can be altered by activity and that neuron type-specific ion channel expression can be set, and perhaps limited by, developmental programs. Better understanding of these early regulatory mechanisms may offer new avenues to avert the behavioral changes that are characteristic of many mental illnesses.

Publisher URL: www.sciencedirect.com/science

DOI: S0166223613001276

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