Published on Thu Feb 18 2021

Probing cortical excitability under GABAergic modulation

Lepeu, G., Van Maren, E., Slabeva, K., Fuchs, M., Anso, J., Z'Graggen, W., Pollo, C., Schindler, K., Adamantidis, A., Baud, M. O.

Cortical excitability, the variable response to a given cortical input, is widely studied in neuroscience, from slice experiments and in silico modeling work to human clinical settings. However, a unifying definition and a translational approach to the phenomenon are currently lacking. For example, at the onset of epileptic seizures, cortical excitability may impair resilience to perturbations (external or endogenous). In this study, we tested in vivo whether changes in cortical excitability quantified as evoked response to small perturbation corresponded to changes in resilience to larger perturbations. To do so, we used both cell-type circuit specific optogenetic stimulation in mice and direct intracranial stimulation in one human subject and quantified 1) evoked cortical responses to single pulses of varying intensity, and 2) evoked cortical facilitation and suppression to paired pulses at varying intervals. In the presence of a gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) agonist or antagonist, we found that 1) cortical response to single pulses and 2) cortical facilitation decreased and increased, respectively. Additionally, using trains of opto-pulses in mice in the presence of a GABA agonist, we found increased resilience to the induction of seizures. With this study, we provide evidence for a tight correlation between cortical excitability and resilience, exploring a range of cortical dynamics, from physiological excitability, to pathological discharges. Our study carried out with two different stimulation methods in two species suggests that varying cortical excitability can be tracked with simple protocols involving minute short-lived perturbative stimuli.