Purpose of review: The aim is to review mechanisms that are central to the formation of proper cortical circuitry and relevant to perinatal brain injury and premature birth.
Recent findings: Clinical investigations using noninvasive imaging techniques suggest that impaired connectivity of cortical circuitry is associated with perinatal adverse conditions. Recent experimental and translational studies revealed developmental mechanisms that are critical for circuit formation and potentially at risk in the perinatal period. These include existence of last wave genesis, migration and integration of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) interneurons in the perinatal period; maturation of GABA interneuron networks that are central to critical period plasticity; transient connections by subplate neurons that guide thalamocortical connectivity, and a perineuronal microglia network that maintains axonal growth and neuronal survival as well as executing synaptic pruning. In addition, recent work has demonstrated that birth plays a key role in triggering the maturation cascade of cortical circuits.
Summary: Altered maturation of cortical circuits is an increasingly recognized aspect of perinatal injury and premature birth. Potential mechanisms are revealed but further translational studies are required to associate fine changes at the cellular and molecular level with imaging data in experimental models.