Increasing evidence supports the idea that spontaneous brain activity may have an important functional role. Cultured neuronal networks provide a suitable model system to search for the mechanisms by which neuronal spontaneous activity is maintained and regulated. This activity is marked by synchronized bursting events (SBEs) - short time windows (hundreds of milliseconds) of rapid neuronal firing separated by long quiescent periods (seconds). However, there exists a special subset of rapidly firing neurons whose activity also persists between SBEs. It has been proposed that these highly active (HA) neurons play an important role in the management (i.e. establishment, maintenance and regulation) of the synchronized network activity. Here, we studied the dynamical properties and the functional role of HA neurons in homogeneous and engineered networks, during early network development, upon recovery from chemical inhibition and in response to electrical stimulations. We found that their sequences of inter-spike intervals (ISI) exhibit long time correlations and a unimodal distribution. During the network's development and under intense inhibition, the observed activity follows a transition period during which mostly HA neurons are active. Studying networks with engineered geometry, we found that HA neurons are precursors (the first to fire) of the spontaneous SBEs and are more responsive to electrical stimulations.