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BACKGROUND: Previous studies showed that synaptic transmission is affected by general anesthetics, but an anesthetic dose response in freely moving animals has not been done. The hippocampus provides a neural network for the evaluation of isoflurane and pentobarbital on multisynaptic transmission that is relevant to memory function.
METHODS: Male Long-Evans rats were implanted with multichannel and single electrodes in the hippocampus. Spontaneous local field potentials and evoked field potentials were recorded in freely behaving rats before (baseline) and after various doses of isoflurane (0.25 to 1.5%) and sodium pentobarbital (10 mg/kg intraperitoneal).
RESULTS: Monosynaptic population excitatory postsynaptic potentials at the basal and apical dendrites of CA1 were significantly decreased at greater than or equal to 0.25% (n = 4) and greater than or equal to 1.0% (n = 6) isoflurane, respectively. The perforant path evoked multisynaptic response at CA1 was decreased by ~50% at greater than or equal to 0.25% isoflurane (n = 5). A decreased population excitatory postsynaptic potential was accompanied by increased paired-pulse facilitation. Population spike amplitude in relation to apical dendritic population excitatory postsynaptic potential was not significantly altered by isoflurane. Spontaneous hippocampal local field potential at 0.8 to 300 Hz was dose-dependently suppressed by isoflurane (n = 6), with local field potential power in the 50- to 150-Hz band showing the highest decrease with isoflurane dose, commensurate with the decrease in trisynaptic CA1 response. Low-dose pentobarbital (n = 7) administration decreased the perforant path evoked trisynaptic CA1 response and hippocampal local field potentials at 78 to 125 Hz.
CONCLUSIONS: Hippocampal networks are sensitive to low doses of isoflurane and pentobarbital, possibly through both glutamatergic and γ-aminobutyric acid-mediated transmission. Network disruption could help explain the impairment of hippocampal-dependent cognitive functions with low-dose anesthetic.