The use of electrocorticography (ECoG) with etiologically realistic epilepsy models promises to facilitate the discovery of better anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs). However, this novel approach is labor intensive, and must be optimized. To this end, we employed rostral parasagittal fluid percussion injury (rpFPI) in the adolescent rat, which closely replicates human contusive closed head injury and results in posttraumatic epilepsy (PTE). We systematically examined variables affecting the power to detect anti-epileptic effects by ECoG and used a non-parametric bootstrap strategy to test several different statistics, study designs, statistical tests, and impact of non-responders. We found that logarithmically transformed data acquired in repeated-measures experiments provided the greatest statistical power to detect decreases in seizure frequencies of preclinical interest with just 8 subjects and with up to approximately 40% non-responders. We then used this optimized design to study the anti-epileptic effects of acute exposure to halothane, and chronic (1 week) exposures to carbamazepine (CBZ) and valproate (VPA) 1 month post-injury. While CBZ was ineffective in all animals, VPA induced, during treatment, a progressive decrease in seizure frequency in animals primarily suffering from non-spreading neocortical seizures, but was ineffective in animals with a high frequency of spreading seizures. Halothane powerfully blocked all seizure activity. The data show that rpFPI and chronic ECoG can conveniently be employed for the evaluation of AEDs, suggest that VPA may be more effective than CBZ to treat some forms of PTE, and support the theory that pharmacoresistance may depend on the severity of epilepsy. The data also demonstrate the utility of chronic exposures to experimental drugs in preclinical studies and highlight the need for greater attention to etiology in clinical studies of AEDs.
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