Nat Neurosci. 2023 Sep;26(9):1555-1565. doi: 10.1038/s41593-023-01405-5. Epub 2023 Aug 31.
Spontaneous synchronous activity is a hallmark of developing brain circuits and promotes their formation. Ex vivo, synchronous activity was shown to be orchestrated by a sparse population of highly connected GABAergic ‘hub’ neurons. The recent development of all-optical methods to record and manipulate neuronal activity in vivo now offers the unprecedented opportunity to probe the existence and function of hub cells in vivo. Using calcium imaging, connectivity analysis and holographic optical stimulation, we show that single GABAergic, but not glutamatergic, neurons influence population dynamics in the barrel cortex of non-anaesthetized mouse pups. Single GABAergic cells mainly exert an inhibitory influence on both spontaneous and sensory-evoked population bursts. Their network influence scales with their functional connectivity, with highly connected hub neurons displaying the strongest impact. We propose that hub neurons function in tailoring intrinsic cortical dynamics to external sensory inputs.