Throughout development, the nervous system produces patterned spontaneous activity. Research over the past two decades has revealed a core group of mechanisms that mediate spontaneous activity in diverse circuits. Many circuits engage several of these mechanisms sequentially to accommodate developmental changes in connectivity. In addition to shared mechanisms, activity propagates through developing circuits and neuronal pathways (i.e., linked circuits in different brain areas) in stereotypic patterns. Increasing evidence suggests that spontaneous network activity shapes synaptic development in vivo. Variations in activity-dependent plasticity may explain how similar mechanisms and patterns of activity can be employed to establish diverse circuits. Here, I will review common mechanisms and patterns of spontaneous activity in emerging neural networks and discuss recent insights into their contribution to synaptic development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)272-290
Number of pages19
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • circuit mechanisms
  • connectivity
  • patterned activity
  • plasticity
  • synaptogenesis
  • waves


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