A major challenge in experimental epilepsy research is to reconcile the effects of anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) on individual neurons with their network-level actions. Highlighting this difficulty, it is unclear why carbamazepine (CBZ), a frontline AED with a known molecular mechanism, has been reported to increase epileptiform activity in several clinical and experimental studies. We confirmed in an in vitro mouse model (in both sexes) that the frequency of interictal bursts increased after CBZ perfusion. To address the underlying mechanisms, we developed a method, activity clamp, to distinguish the response of individual neurons from network-level actions of CBZ. We first recorded barrages of synaptic conductances from neurons during epileptiform activity and then replayed them in pharmacologically isolated neurons under control conditions and in the presence of CBZ. CBZ consistently decreased the reliability of the second action potential in each burst of activity. Conventional current-clamp recordings using excitatory ramp or square-step current injections failed to reveal this effect. Network modeling showed that a CBZ-induced decrease of neuron recruitment during epileptic bursts can lead to an increase in burst frequency at the network level by reducing the refractoriness of excitatory transmission. By combining activity clamp with computer simulations, the present study provides a potential explanation for the paradoxical effects of CBZ on epileptiform activity.SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT The effects of anti-epileptic drugs on individual neurons are difficult to separate from their network-level actions. Although carbamazepine (CBZ) has a known anti-epileptic mechanism, paradoxically, it has also been reported to increase epileptiform activity in clinical and experimental studies. To investigate this paradox during realistic neuronal epileptiform activity, we developed a method, activity clamp, to distinguish the effects of CBZ on individual neurons from network-level actions. We demonstrate that CBZ consistently decreases the reliability of the second action potential in each burst of epileptiform activity. Network modeling shows that this effect on individual neuronal responses could explain the paradoxical effect of CBZ at the network level.
Keywords: carbamazepine; dynamic clamp; epilepsy; hippocampus; paradoxical effect; sodium channels.
Copyright © 2017 Morris et al.