Excitatory actions of gaba during development: the nature of the nurture
In the immature brain, GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is excitatory, and GABA-releasing synapses are formed before glutamatergic contacts in a wide range of species and structures. GABA becomes inhibitory by the delayed expression of a chloride exporter, leading to a negative shift in the reversal potential for choride ions. I propose that this mechanism provides a solution to the problem of how to excite developing neurons to promote growth and synapse formation while avoiding the potentially toxic effects of a mismatch between GABA-mediated inhibition and glutamatergic excitation. As key elements of this cascade are activity dependent, the formation of inhibition adds an element of nurture to the construction of cortical networks.