Changes in the short-term dynamics of excitatory synapses over development have been observed throughout cortex, but their purpose and consequences remain unclear. Here, we propose that developmental changes in synaptic dynamics buffer the effect of slow inhibitory long-term plasticity, allowing for continuously stable neural activity. Using computational modeling we demonstrate that early in development excitatory short-term depression quickly stabilises neural activity, even in the face of strong, unbalanced excitation. We introduce a model of the commonly observed developmental shift from depression to facilitation and show that neural activity remains stable throughout development, while inhibitory synaptic plasticity slowly balances excitation, consistent with experimental observations. Our model predicts changes in the input responses from phasic to phasic-and-tonic and more precise spike timings. We also observe a gradual emergence of short-lasting memory traces governed by short-term plasticity development. We conclude that the developmental depression-to-facilitation shift may control excitation-inhibition balance throughout development with important functional consequences.
Cerebral Cortex, Depression, Neuronal Plasticity, Synapses