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Brain Res. 1998 Sep 7;804(2):266-74.

Effects of ethanol on rat somatosensory cortical neurons.

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  • 1Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, EPPI Bldg., 3200 Henry Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19129, USA.


In this study, we characterized the local effects of ethanol (EtOH) on postsynaptic potentials (PSPs) and membrane properties of layer II-III (L2-3) and layer V (L5) somatosensory cortical neurons. Intracellular recordings were done using the in vitro slice preparation of rat somatosensory cortex. Our results show that EtOH exerts local effects on cortical cell membrane at physiologically relevant concentrations. A predominant effect of EtOH was to reduce excitability of L2-3 and L5 neurons by increasing the rheobase, decreasing input resistance and repetitive firing, reducing PSPs amplitude and the probability of evoking action potentials. Early (6 ms) and late (18 ms) PSP components were affected differentially by EtOH, the late components being more suppressed. Overall, EtOH-mediated suppression of PSPs was stronger in L5 neurons. Cortical neurons were divided into three subtypes: regular spiking adapting (RS-A), regular spiking non-adapting (RS-NA) and bursting (D-IB) neurons. PSPs evoked in RS-A neurons were more sensitive to EtOH suppressant effects. EtOH effects on input resistance were distributed differentially among the three groups of neurons. These results support the notion that EtOH disrupts higher processing of somatosensory information via a differential alteration of cortical neuron's membrane properties and synaptic transmission.

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