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J Neurophysiol. 2000 Jul;84(1):274-80.

Effects of applied electric fields on low-calcium epileptiform activity in the CA1 region of rat hippocampal slices.

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Neural Engineering Center, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106, USA.


It is well established that exogenous electric fields can suppress activity obtained in different models of epileptiform discharge such as penicillin and high potassium. In the low-calcium model of epilepsy, spontaneous epileptiform bursting is generated in the absence of synaptic transmission. It has been suggested that ephaptic interactions play a critical role in neuronal synchronization and burst propagation in this nonsynaptic model. We, therefore, tested the hypothesis that low-calcium bursting induced in the CA1 region of transverse and longitudinal hippocampal slices should be highly sensitive to exogenous electric fields. Uniform, low amplitude DC electric fields were applied during spontaneous low-calcium epileptiform activity. Modulation and full suppression of epileptiform activity was observed at field strengths between 1 and 5 mV/mm, a value significantly lower than in other in vitro models of epilepsy. We further investigated the hypothesis that the efficacy of electrical fields was related to changes in the extracellular space. Our results suggest that the osmolality of the perfusate can modulate the efficacy of electric fields. It was also observed that the ability of a field to suppress or modulate low-calcium activity was highly dependent on its orientation, polarity, as well as magnitude. Finally, it was observed that the extracellular potassium "waves" that normally accompany individual epileptiform events was abolished when the individual events were suppressed. These results suggest that DC fields modulate and suppress low-calcium activity by directly polarizing CA1 pyramidal cells.

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