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J Physiol. 2016 Nov 15;594(22):6733-6751. doi: 10.1113/JP272162. Epub 2016 Aug 8.

Integrative properties and transfer function of cortical neurons initiating absence seizures in a rat genetic model.

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Sorbonne Universités, UPMC Univ Paris 06, UPMC; INSERM U 1127, CNRS, UMR 7225, Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière, Institut du Cerveau et de la Moelle épinière, ICM, F-75013, Paris, France.
UPMC Univ Paris 06, F-75005, Paris, France.



Absence seizures are accompanied by spike-and-wave discharges in cortical electroencephalograms. These complex paroxysmal activities, affecting the thalamocortical networks, profoundly alter cognitive performances and preclude conscious perception. Here, using a well-recognized genetic model of absence epilepsy, we investigated in vivo how information processing was impaired in the ictogenic neurons, i.e. the population of cortical neurons responsible for seizure initiation. In between seizures, ictogenic neurons were more prone to generate bursting activity and their firing response to weak depolarizing events was considerably facilitated compared to control neurons. In the course of seizures, information processing became unstable in ictogenic cells, alternating between an increased and a decreased responsiveness to excitatory inputs, depending on the spike and wave patterns. The state-dependent modulation in the excitability of ictogenic neurons affects their inter-seizure transfer function and their time-to-time responsiveness to incoming inputs during absences.


Epileptic seizures result from aberrant cellular and/or synaptic properties that can alter the capacity of neurons to integrate and relay information. During absence seizures, spike-and-wave discharges (SWDs) interfere with incoming sensory inputs and preclude conscious experience. The Genetic Absence Epilepsy Rats from Strasbourg (GAERS), a well-established animal model of absence epilepsy, allows exploration of the cellular basis of this impaired information processing. Here, by combining in vivo electrocorticographic and intracellular recordings from GAERS and control animals, we investigated how the pro-ictogenic properties of seizure-initiating cortical neurons modify their integrative properties and input-output operation during inter-ictal periods and during the spike (S-) and wave (W-) cortical patterns alternating during seizures. In addition to a sustained depolarization and an excessive firing rate in between seizures, ictogenic neurons exhibited a pronounced hyperpolarization-activated depolarization compared to homotypic control neurons. Firing frequency versus injected current relations indicated an increased sensitivity of GAERS cells to weak excitatory inputs, without modifications in the trial-to-trial variability of current-induced firing. During SWDs, the W-component resulted in paradoxical effects in ictogenic neurons, associating an increased membrane input resistance with a reduction in the current-evoked firing responses. Conversely, the collapse of cell membrane resistance during the S-component was accompanied by an elevated current-evoked firing relative to W-sequences, which remained, however, lower compared to inter-ictal periods. These findings show a dynamic modulation of ictogenic neurons' intrinsic properties that may alter inter-seizure cortical function and participate in compromising information processing in cortical networks during absences.

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