Furosemide and mannitol suppression of epileptic activity in the human brain

J Neurophysiol. 2005 Aug;94(2):907-18. doi: 10.1152/jn.00944.2004. Epub 2005 Feb 23.


Most research on basic mechanisms of epilepsy and the design of new antiepileptic drugs has focused on synaptic transmission or action potential generation. However, a number of laboratory studies have suggested that nonsynaptic mechanisms, such as modulation of electric field interactions via the extracellular space (ECS), might also contribute to neuronal hypersynchrony and epileptogenicity. To date, a role for nonsynaptic modulation of epileptic activity in the human brain has not been investigated. Here we studied the effects of molecules that modulate the volume and water content of the ECS on epileptic activity in patients suffering from neocortical and mesial temporal lobe epilepsy. Electrophysiological and optical imaging data were acquired from the exposed cortices of anesthetized patients undergoing surgical treatment for intractable epilepsy. Patients were given a single intravenous injection containing either 20 mg furosemide (a cation-chloride cotransporter antagonist) or 50 g mannitol (an osmolyte). Furosemide and mannitol both significantly suppressed spontaneous epileptic spikes and electrical stimulation-evoked epileptiform discharges in all subjects, completely blocking all epileptic activity in some patients without suppressing normal electroencephalographic activity. Optical imaging suggested that the spread of electrical stimulation-evoked activity over the cortex was significantly reduced by these treatments, but the magnitude of neuronal activation near the stimulating electrode was not diminished. These results suggest that nonsynaptic mechanisms play a critical role in modulating the epileptogenicity of the human brain. Furosemide and other drugs that modulate the ECS might possess clinically useful antiepileptic properties, while avoiding the side effects associated with the suppression of neuronal excitability.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Diuretics / administration & dosage*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Radiation
  • Electric Impedance
  • Electric Stimulation / methods
  • Electroencephalography
  • Epilepsy / diet therapy*
  • Evoked Potentials / drug effects
  • Evoked Potentials / radiation effects
  • Extracellular Space / drug effects
  • Female
  • Furosemide / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous / methods
  • Male
  • Mannitol / administration & dosage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Spectrum Analysis / methods
  • Time Factors


  • Diuretics
  • Mannitol
  • Furosemide