Persistent activity in the brain is involved in working memory and motor planning. The ability of the brain to hold information ‘online' long after an initiating stimulus is a hallmark of brain areas such as the prefrontal cortex. Recurrent network loops such as the thalamocortical loop and reciprocal loops in the cortex are potential substrates that can support such activity. However, native brain circuitry makes it difficult to study mechanisms underlying such persistent activity. Here we propose a platform to study synaptic mechanisms of such persistent activity by constraining neuronal networks to a recurrent loop like geometry. Using a polymer stamping technique, adhesive proteins are transferred onto glass substrates in a precise ring shape. Primary rat hippocampal cultures were capable of forming ring-shaped networks containing 40–60 neurons. Calcium imaging of these networks show evoked persistent activity in an all-or-none manner. Blocking inhibition with bicuculline methaiodide (BMI) leads to an increase in the duration of persistent activity. These persistent phases were abolished by blockade of asynchronous neurotransmitter release by ethylene glycol tetraacetic acid (EGTA-AM).
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