Recent evidence suggests that blockade of normal excitation in the immature nervous system may have profound effects on neuronal survival during the period of natural cell death. Cell loss following depression of electrical activity in the central nervous system (CNS) may explain the neuropsychiatric deficits in humans exposed to alcohol or other CNS depressants during development. Thus, understanding the role of electrical activity in the survival of young neurons is an important goal of modern basic and clinical neuroscience. Here we review the evidence from in vivo and in vitro model systems that electrical activity participates in promoting neuronal survival. We discuss the potential role of moderate elevations of intracellular calcium in promoting survival, and we address the possible ways in which activity and conventional trophic factors may interact.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-54
Number of pages14
JournalMolecular Neurobiology
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Aug 2000


  • Apoptosis
  • Calcium
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Programmed cell death


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