Encyclopedia of Computational Neuroscience

2015 Edition
| Editors: Dieter Jaeger, Ranu Jung

Rhythm Generation in Embryonic Chick Spinal Cord

  • Joel Tabak
  • Peter Wenner
  • Michael J. O’Donovan
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-6675-8_45


Early in development, vertebrate neural networks become spontaneously active in the absence of sensory inputs. Their activity is episodic and differs from the activity that will take place in the fully mature, functional network. In the isolated chick spinal cord preparation, episodic activity starts at embryonic day (E) 4 and lasts about 10 days. At E4, it is characterized by one short bout of synchronous activity along the ventral spinal cord occurring every 2 min. By E10, episodes can last over a minute and are comprised of several cycles of activity. Many different developing networks also produce episodic activity; this activity plays an important role in the maturity of the synaptic networks in which it is expressed (Blankenship and Feller 2010; O’Donovan 1999).

Detailed Description

Spontaneous network activity was first observed behaviorally as embryonic motility (Preyer 1937). This spinally generated activity occurs in bouts separated by periods of quiescence....
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Blankenship AG, Feller MB (2010) Mechanisms underlying spontaneous patterned activity in developing neural circuits. Nature Rev Neurosci 11:18–29Google Scholar
  2. Butts DA, Feller MB, Shatz CJ, Rokhsar DS (1999) Retinal waves are governed by collective network properties. J Neurosci 19:3580–3593PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Chub N, O’Donovan MJ (1998) Blockade and recovery of spontaneous rhythmic activity after application of neurotransmitter antagonists to spinal networks of the chick embryo. J Neurosci 18:294–306PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Chub N, O’Donovan MJ (2001) Post-episode depression of GABAergic transmission in spinal neurons of the chick embryo. J Neurophysiol 85:2166–2176PubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Fedirchuk B, Wenner P, Whelan PJ, Ho S, Tabak J, O’Donovan MJ (1999) Spontaneous network activity transiently depresses synaptic transmission in the embryonic chick spinal cord. J Neurosci 19:2102–2112PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Gonzalez-Islas C, Wenner P (2006) Spontaneous network activity in the embryonic spinal cord regulates AMPAergic and GABAergic synaptic strength. Neuron 49:563–575Google Scholar
  7. Ho S, O’Donovan MJ (1993) Regionalization and intersegmental coordination of rhythm-generating networks in the spinal cord of the chick embryo. J Neurosci 13:1354–1371PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Marchetti C, Tabak J, Chub N, O’Donovan MJ, Rinzel J (2005) Modeling spontaneous activity in the developing spinal cord using activity-dependent variations of intracellular chloride. J Neurosci 25:3601–3612PubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. O’Donovan MJ (1999) The origin of spontaneous activity in developing networks of the vertebrate nervous system. Curr Opin Neurobiol 9:94–104PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Preyer W (1937) Embryonic motility and sensitivity (trans: Coghill GE, Legner WK). Monogr Soc Res Child Dev 2:1–115Google Scholar
  11. Staley KJ, Longacher M, Bains JS, Yee A (1998) Presynaptic modulation of CA3 network activity. Nat Neurosci 1:201–209PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Tabak J, Senn W, O’Donovan MJ, Rinzel J (2000) Modeling of spontaneous activity in developing spinal cord using activity-dependent depression in an excitatory network. J Neurosci 20:3041–3056PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Tabak J, Rinzel J, O’Donovan MJ (2001) The role of activity-dependent network depression in the expression and self-regulation of spontaneous activity in the developing spinal cord. J Neurosci 21:8966–8978PubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Tabak J, Mascagni M, Bertram R (2010) Mechanism for the universal pattern of activity in developing neuronal networks. J Neurophysiol 103:2208–2221PubMedCentralPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Tsodyks M, Uziel A, Markram H (2000) Synchrony generation in recurrent networks with frequency-dependent synapses. J Neurosci 20:RC50PubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Vladimirski BB, Tabak J, O’Donovan MJ, Rinzel J (2008) Episodic activity in a heterogeneous excitatory network, from spiking neurons to mean field. J Comput Neurosci 25:39–63PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Wiedemann UA, Luthi A (2003) Timing of network synchronization by refractory mechanisms. J Neurophysiol 90:3902–3911PubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Wilhelm JC, Wenner P (2008) GABAA transmission is a critical step in the process of triggering homeostatic increases in quantal amplitude. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 106:6760–6765Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joel Tabak
    • 1
  • Peter Wenner
    • 2
  • Michael J. O’Donovan
    • 3
  1. 1.Florida State UniversityTallahasseeUSA
  2. 2.Emory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeBethesdaUSA