Waves of action-potential bursts propagate across the ganglion-cell surface of isolated developing retinas. It has been suggested that the rise of extracellular potassium concentration following a burst of action potentials in a cell may underlie these waves by depolarizing neighbor cells. This suggestion is sensible for developing tissues, since their glial system is immature. We tested whether this extracellular-potassium suggestion is feasible. For this purpose, we built a realistic biophysical model of the ganglion-cell layer of the developing retina. Simulations with this model show that increases of extracellular potassium are sufficiently high (about fourfold) to mediate the waves consistently with experimental physiological and pharmacological data. Even if another mechanism mediates the waves, these simulations indicate that extracellular potassium should significantly modulate the waves' properties.

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