Network and pharmacological mechanisms leading to epileptiform synchronization in the limbic system in vitro

Prog Neurobiol. 2002 Oct;68(3):167-207. doi: 10.1016/s0301-0082(02)00077-1.


Seizures in patients presenting with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy result from the interaction among neuronal networks in limbic structures such as the hippocampus, amygdala and entorhinal cortex. Mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, one of the most common forms of partial epilepsy in adulthood, is generally accompanied by a pattern of brain damage known as mesial temporal sclerosis. Limbic seizures can be mimicked in vitro using preparations of combined hippocampus-entorhinal cortex slices perfused with artificial cerebrospinal fluid containing convulsants or nominally zero Mg(2+), in order to produce epileptiform synchronization. Here, we summarize experimental evidence obtained in such slices from rodents. These data indicate that in control animals: (i) prolonged, NMDA receptor-dependent epileptiform discharges, resembling electrographic limbic seizures, originate in the entorhinal cortex from where they propagate to the hippocampus via the perforant path-dentate gyrus route; (ii) the initiation and maintenance of these ictal discharges is paradoxically contributed by GABA (mainly type A) receptor-mediated mechanisms; and (iii) CA3 outputs, which relay a continuous pattern of interictal discharge at approximately 1Hz, control rather than sustain ictal discharge generation in entorhinal cortex. Recent work indicates that such a control is weakened in the pilocarpine model of epilepsy (presumably as a result of CA3 cell damage). In addition, in these experiments electrographic seizure activity spreads directly to the CA1-subiculum regions through the temporoammonic pathway. Studies reviewed here indicate that these changes in network interactions, along with other mechanisms of synaptic plasticity (e.g. axonal sprouting, decreased activation of interneurons, upregulation of bursting neurons) can confer to the epileptic, damaged limbic system, the ability to produce recurrent limbic seizures as seen in patients with mesial temporal lobe epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 4-Aminopyridine / pharmacology
  • Action Potentials
  • Animals
  • Electric Stimulation
  • Electrophysiology
  • Entorhinal Cortex / physiopathology
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Epilepsy, Temporal Lobe / physiopathology
  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists / pharmacology
  • GABA Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Hippocampus / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Limbic System / physiopathology*
  • Membrane Potentials
  • Neural Inhibition / drug effects
  • Pilocarpine / pharmacology
  • Receptors, GABA-A / drug effects*
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / drug effects
  • Seizures / physiopathology


  • Excitatory Amino Acid Antagonists
  • GABA Antagonists
  • Receptors, GABA-A
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Pilocarpine
  • 4-Aminopyridine