June 12, 2020

Brain function depends on inhibitory cells that balance or ‘brake’ excitation. These neurons allow the brain to process information and also prevent runaway seizures. A new study from the George Washington University (GW), however, reports that in some critical structures of the developing brain, the inhibitory neurons cause excitation rather than suppression of brain activity. The findings, published in Science Advances, could have implications for the treatment of neonatal seizures.

In this study, the researchers locally manipulated interneuron activity in a murine model. Their results prove that GABAergic neurons are excitatory in the hippocampus at ages equivalent to the early third trimester and only later become inhibitory. The study also showed interneurons in a closely related but different region, the visual cortex, are inhibitory throughout early development.