T-type Ca2+ channels in normal and abnormal brain functions

Physiol Rev. 2013 Jul;93(3):961-92. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00010.2012.


Low-voltage-activated T-type Ca(2+) channels are widely expressed in various types of neurons. Once deinactivated by hyperpolarization, T-type channels are ready to be activated by a small depolarization near the resting membrane potential and, therefore, are optimal for regulating the excitability and electroresponsiveness of neurons under physiological conditions near resting states. Ca(2+) influx through T-type channels engenders low-threshold Ca(2+) spikes, which in turn trigger a burst of action potentials. Low-threshold burst firing has been implicated in the synchronization of the thalamocortical circuit during sleep and in absence seizures. It also has been suggested that T-type channels play an important role in pain signal transmission, based on their abundant expression in pain-processing pathways in peripheral and central neurons. In this review, we will describe studies on the role of T-type Ca(2+) channels in the physiological as well as pathological generation of brain rhythms in sleep, absence epilepsy, and pain signal transmission. Recent advances in studies of T-type channels in the control of cognition will also be briefly discussed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Calcium Channels, T-Type / genetics
  • Calcium Channels, T-Type / metabolism*
  • Epilepsy, Absence / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Pain / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology*


  • Calcium Channels, T-Type