Network bursts and oscillations are forms of spontaneous activity in cortical circuits that have been described in vivo and in vitro. Searching for mechanisms involved in their generation, we investigated the collective network activity and spike discharge oscillations in cortical slice cultures of neonatal rats, combining multielectrode arrays with patch clamp recordings from individual neurons. The majority of these cultures showed spontaneous collective network activity [population bursts (PBs)] that could be described as neuronal avalanches. The largest of these PBs were followed by fast spike discharge oscillations in the beta to theta range, and sometimes additional repetitive PBs, together forming seizure-like episodes. During such episodes, all neurons showed sustained depolarization with increased spike rates. However, whereas regular-spiking (RS) and fast-spiking (FS) neurons fired during the PBs, only the FS neurons fired during the fast oscillations. Blockade of N-methyl-d-aspartate receptors reduced the depolarization and suppressed both the increased FS neuron firing and the oscillations. To investigate the generation of PBs, we studied the network responses to electrical stimulation. For most of the stimulation sites, the relationship between the stimulated inputs and the evoked PBs was linear. From a few stimulation sites, however, large PBs could be evoked with small inputs, indicating the activation of hub circuits. Taken together, our findings suggests that the oscillations originate from recurrent inhibition in local networks of depolarized inhibitory FS interneurons, whereas the PBs originate from recurrent excitation in networks of RS and FS neurons that is initiated in hub circuits.
© 2012 The Authors. European Journal of Neuroscience © 2012 Federation of European Neuroscience Societies and Blackwell Publishing Ltd.