Single-neuron discharge properties and network activity in dissociated cultures of neocortex

J Neurophysiol. 2004 Aug;92(2):977-96. doi: 10.1152/jn.00067.2004. Epub 2004 Mar 24.


Cultures of neurons from rat neocortex exhibit spontaneous, temporally patterned, network activity. Such a distributed activity in vitro constitutes a possible framework for combining theoretical and experimental approaches, linking the single-neuron discharge properties to network phenomena. In this work, we addressed the issue of closing the loop, from the identification of the single-cell discharge properties to the prediction of collective network phenomena. Thus, we compared these predictions with the spontaneously emerging network activity in vitro, detected by substrate arrays of microelectrodes. Therefore, we characterized the single-cell discharge properties to Gauss-distributed noisy currents, under pharmacological blockade of the synaptic transmission. Such stochastic currents emulate a realistic input from the network. The mean (m) and variance (s(2)) of the injected current were varied independently, reminiscent of the extended mean-field description of a variety of possible presynaptic network organizations and mean activity levels, and the neuronal response was evaluated in terms of the steady-state mean firing rate (f). Experimental current-to-spike-rate responses f(m, s(2)) were similar to those of neurons in brain slices, and could be quantitatively described by leaky integrate-and-fire (IF) point neurons. The identified model parameters were then used in numerical simulations of a network of IF neurons. Such a network reproduced a collective activity, matching the spontaneous irregular population bursting, observed in cultured networks. We finally interpret such a collective activity and its link with model details by the mean-field theory. We conclude that the IF model is an adequate minimal description of synaptic integration and neuronal excitability, when collective network activities are considered in vitro.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Artifacts
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Computer Simulation
  • Differential Threshold
  • Electrophysiology
  • Microelectrodes
  • Models, Neurological*
  • Neocortex / cytology
  • Neocortex / physiology*
  • Nerve Net / physiology*
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Patch-Clamp Techniques
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reaction Time