Bonifazi P - Goldin M - Picardo MA - Jorquera I - Cattani A - Bianconi G - Represa A - Ben-Ari Y - Cossart R


Science (New York, N.Y.)


Brain function operates through the coordinated activation of neuronal assemblies. Graph theory predicts that scale-free topologies, which include "hubs" (superconnected nodes), are an effective design to orchestrate synchronization. Whether hubs are present in neuronal assemblies and coordinate network activity remains unknown. Using network dynamics imaging, online reconstruction of functional connectivity, and targeted whole-cell recordings in rats and mice, we found that developing hippocampal networks follow a scale-free topology, and we demonstrated the existence of functional hubs. Perturbation of a single hub influenced the entire network dynamics. Morphophysiological analysis revealed that hub cells are a subpopulation of gamma-aminobutyric acid-releasing (GABAergic) interneurons possessing widespread axonal arborizations. These findings establish a central role for GABAergic interneurons in shaping developing networks and help provide a conceptual framework for studying neuronal synchrony.

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