Identification and dynamics of spontaneous burst initiation zones in unidimensional neuronal cultures

J Neurophysiol. 2007 Apr;97(4):2937-48. doi: 10.1152/jn.00958.2006. Epub 2007 Feb 7.


Spontaneous activity is typical of in vitro neural networks, often in the form of large population bursts. The origins of this activity are attributed to intrinsically bursting neurons and to noisy backgrounds as well as to recurrent network connections. Spontaneous activity is often observed to emanate from localized sources or initiation zones, propagating from there to excite large populations of neurons. In this study, we use unidimensional cultures to overcome experimental difficulties in identifying initiation zones in vivo and in dissociated two-dimensional cultures. We found that spontaneous activity in these cultures is initiated exclusively in localized zones that are characterized by high neuronal density but also by recurrent and inhibitory network connections. We demonstrate that initiation zones compete in driving network activity in a winner-takes-most scenario.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Computer Simulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Evoked Potentials / physiology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Models, Neurological
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Neurons / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Refractory Period, Electrophysiological / physiology
  • Tetrodotoxin / pharmacology


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • Tetrodotoxin
  • Calcium