Low voltage-activated (LVA) T-type calcium channels are well regarded as a key mechanism underlying the generation of neuronal burst-firing. Their low threshold for activation combined with a rapid and transient calcium conductance generates low-threshold calcium potentials (LTCPs), upon the crest of which high frequency action potentials fire for a brief period. Experiments using simultaneous electroencephalography (EEG) and intracellular recordings demonstrate that neuronal burst-firing is a likely causative component in the generation of normal sleep patterns as well as some pathophysiological conditions, such as epileptic seizures. However, less is known as to how these neuronal bursts impact brain behavior, in particular network synchronization. In this review we summarize recent findings concerning the role of T-type calcium channels in burst-firing and discuss how they likely contribute to the generation of network synchrony. We further outline the function of burst-firing and network synchrony in terms of epileptic seizures. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Calcium channels.
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