Oscillations in neuronal networks are assumed to serve various physiological functions, from coordination of motor patterns to perceptual binding of sensory information. Here, we describe an ultra-slow oscillation (0.025 Hz) in the hippocampus. Extracellular and intracellular activity was recorded from the CA1 and subicular regions in rats of the Wistar and Sprague-Dawley strains, anesthetized with urethane. In a subgroup of Wistar rats (23%), spontaneous afterdischarges (4.7+/-1.6 s) occurred regularly at 40.8+/-15.7 s. The afterdischarge was initiated by a fast increase of population synchrony (100-250 Hz oscillation; "tonic" phase), followed by large-amplitude rhythmic waves and associated action potentials at gamma and beta frequency (15-50 Hz; "clonic" phase). The afterdischarges were bilaterally synchronous and terminated relatively abruptly without post-ictal depression. Single-pulse stimulation of the commissural input could trigger afterdischarges, but only at times when they were about to occur. Commissural stimulation evoked inhibitory postsynaptic potentials in pyramidal cells. However, when the stimulus triggered an afterdischarge, the inhibitory postsynaptic potential was absent and the cells remained depolarized during most of the afterdischarge. Afterdischarges were not observed in the Sprague-Dawley rats. Long-term analysis of interneuronal activity in intact, drug-free rats also revealed periodic excitability changes in the hippocampal network at 0.025 Hz. These findings indicate the presence of an ultra-slow oscillation in the hippocampal formation. The ultra-slow clock induced afterdischarges in susceptible animals. We hypothesize that a transient failure of GABAergic inhibition in a subset of Wistar rats is responsible for the emergence of epileptiform patterns.