Quieting the Brain at Birth

Science's STKE  19 Dec 2006:
Vol. 2006, Issue 366, pp. tw423
DOI: 10.1126/stke.3662006tw423

Birth entails a multitude of transitions. Studying rats, Tyzio et al. have identified yet one more, a link between oxytocin exposure and the switch in how certain brain neurons fire. The neurotransmitter GABA (γ-aminobutyric acid) is usually excitatory in fetal brain neurons but inhibitory once they mature. Exposure to oxytocin during parturition causes a switch from excitation to inhibition in GABA signaling. This quieting of neuronal activity may serve to protect the brain against transient hypoxia during birth.

R. Tyzio, R. Cossart, I. Khalilov, M. Minlebaev, C. A. Hübner, A. Represa, Y. Ben-Ari, R. Khazipov, Maternal oxytocin triggers a transient inhibitory switch in GABA signaling in the fetal brain during delivery. Science 314, 1788-1792 (2006). [Abstract] [Full Text]