The electrical activity of the brain arises from single neurons communicating with each other. However, how single neurons interact during early development to give rise to neural network activity remains poorly understood. We studied the emergence of synchronous neural activity in human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC)-derived neural networks simultaneously on a single-neuron level and network level. The contribution of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and gap junctions to the development of synchronous activity in hPSC-derived neural networks was studied with GABA agonist and antagonist and by blocking gap junctional communication, respectively. We characterized the dynamics of the network-wide synchrony in hPSC-derived neural networks with high spatial resolution (calcium imaging) and temporal resolution microelectrode array (MEA). We found that the emergence of synchrony correlates with a decrease in very strong GABA excitation. However, the synchronous network was found to consist of a heterogeneous mixture of synchronously active cells with variable responses to GABA, GABA agonists and gap junction blockers. Furthermore, we show how single-cell distributions give rise to the network effect of GABA, GABA agonists and gap junction blockers. Finally, based on our observations, we suggest that the earliest form of synchronous neuronal activity depends on gap junctions and a decrease in GABA induced depolarization but not on GABAA mediated signaling.
Mäkinen, M. E. L., Ylä-Outinen, L., & Narkilahti, S. (2018). Gaba and gap junctions in the development of synchronized activity in human pluripotent stem cell-derived neural networks. Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2018.00056