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Brain Res Dev Brain Res. 2001 Jul 23;129(1):27-38.

Recurrent neonatal seizures: relationship of pathology to the electroencephalogram and cognition.

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Department of Neurology, Center for Research in Pediatric Epilepsy, Harvard Medical School, Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Seizures in preterm infants are associated with a high risk of neurological sequelae. In the neonatal rat recurrent seizures have been associated with long-term changes in cerebral excitability and cognition as well as sprouting of mossy fiber terminals in the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus and hippocampal CA3 subfield. To evaluate the relationship between seizure-induced morphological changes and cognitive function we subjected newborn rats to 55 seizures with flurothyl during the first 12 days of life. During adolescence rats with prior recurrent seizures were compared with controls in electroencephalographic power and performance in the Morris water maze and open field test. Rats subjected to recurrent seizures had marked impairment in water maze performance and never reached the level of learning seen in controls despite a total of 54 trials. Recurrent seizures were also associated with an overall reduction in spectral power which was most pronounced in the theta range. On histological examination rats with recurrent neonatal seizures had sprouting of mossy fiber terminals in CA3 and the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus without any accompanying cell loss. Sprouting in CA3, but not the granule cell layer of the dentate gyrus, correlated with water maze performance. This study demonstrates that recurrent neonatal seizures can result in profound impairment of water maze performance and reduction of electroencephalographic power despite the lack of discernible cell loss and that this cognitive impairment correlates with mossy fiber sprouting in CA3.

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