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Models of epileptiform activity in vitro have many advantages for recording and experimental manipulation. Neural tissues can be maintained in vitro for hours, and in neuronal or organotypic slice cultures for several weeks. A variety of drugs and other agents increase activity in these in vitro conditions, in many cases resulting in epileptiform activity, thus providing a direct model of symptomatic seizures. We review these preparations and the experimental manipulations used to induce epileptiform activity. The most common of drugs used are GABAA receptor antagonists and potassium channel blockers (notably 4-aminopyridine). Muscarinic agents also can induce epileptiform synchronization in vitro, and include potassium channel inhibition amongst their cellular actions. Manipulations of extracellular ions are reviewed in another paper in this special issue, as are ex vivo slices prepared from chronically epileptic animals and from people with epilepsy. More complex slices including extensive networks and/or several connected brain structures can provide insights into the dynamics of long range connections during epileptic activity. Visualization of slices also provides opportunities for identification of living neurons and for optical recording/stimulation and manipulation. Overall, the analysis of the epileptiform activity induced in brain tissue in vitro has played a major role in advancing our understanding of the cellular and network mechanisms of epileptiform synchronization, and it is expected to continue to do so in future.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurosci Methods

Publication Date





26 - 32


Animal models in vitro, Epileptiform synchronization, GABA(A) receptor antagonists, K(+) channel blockers, Animals, Cells, Cultured, Cholinergic Agents, Cortical Synchronization, Disease Models, Animal, Epilepsy, GABA Antagonists, Humans, Nerve Net, Organ Culture Techniques, Potassium Channel Blockers