National Research Council of Canada. Human Health Therapeutics
Neuronal activity in vitro exhibits network bursts characterized by brief periods of increased spike rates. Recent work shows that a subpopulation of neurons reliably predicts the occurrence of network bursts. Here, we examined the role of burst predictors in cultures undergoing an in vitro model of cerebral ischemia. Dissociated primary cortical neurons were plated on multielectrode arrays and spontaneous activity was recorded at 17 days in vitro (DIV). This activity was characterized by neuronal avalanches where burst statistics followed a power law. We identified burst predictors as channels that consistently fired immediately prior to network bursts. The timing of these predictors relative to bursts followed a skewed distribution that differed sharply from a null model based on branching ratio. A portion of cultures were subjected to an excitotoxic insult (DIV 18). Propidium iodine and fluorescence imaging confirmed cell death in these cultures. While the insult did not alter the distribution of avalanches, it resulted in alterations in overall spike rates. Burst predictors, however, maintained baseline levels of activity. The resilience of burst predictors following excitotoxic insult suggests a key role of these units in maintaining network activity following injury, with implications for the selective effects of ischemia in the brain.