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Our understanding of the role of GABA signaling in circuit development is rapidly expanding. Here, we review three recent refinements in our understanding of the diverse roles that GABA plays at different stages of neural circuit formation. First, we discuss recent evidence that depolarizing GABA plays at least a permissive role in promoting both excitatory and inhibitory synaptogenesis in developing neurons (including newly generated neurons in the adult). Next, we discuss recent evidence that GABAergic circuits sculpt the temporal and spatial aspects of synaptic integration. Consequently, early developmental events affecting the establishment of GABAergic circuits will control subsequent activity-dependent refinements of information processing and circuit function. In the third section, we review recent evidence of molecular mechanisms by which GABAergic signaling plays a role in the regulation of the balance between GABAergic and glutamatergic transmission in developing circuits. Throughout the review, we concentrate on the effects of the signaling by GABA(A) receptors, as told from the point of view of the GABA-responsive cells, and do not discuss mechanisms that govern GABA release or activity of GABAergic neurons per se.

Original publication




Journal article


Trends Neurosci

Publication Date





382 - 389


Animals, Glutamic Acid, Humans, Nerve Net, Neural Pathways, Neurons, Receptors, GABA-A, Signal Transduction, Synapses, gamma-Aminobutyric Acid