TITLE: Modeling driver cells in developing neuronal networks


Spontaneous emergence of synchronized population activity is a characteristic feature of developing brain circuits.
Recent experiments in the developing neo-cortex showed the existence of “driver cells” able to impact the synchronization dynamics when single-handedly stimulated. We have developed a spiking network model capable to reproduce the experimental results. In particular, we considered a standard neuronal network model, with short-term synaptic plasticity, whose population activity is characterized by bursting behavior, and we added developmentally regulated constraints on single neuron excitability and connectivity. The model reproduced the two classes of driver cells observed in the experiments: functional hubs and low functionally connected (LC) neurons. The functional hubs arranged in a clique orchestrated the synchronization build-up, while the LC drivers were lately or not at all recruited in the synchronization process. Notwithstanding, they were able to alter the network state when stimulated by modifying the temporal activation of the functional clique or even its composition. LC drivers can lead either to higher population synchrony or even to the arrest of population dynamics, upon stimulation. Noticeably, some LC driver can display both effects depending on the received stimulus.