Author(s): Walcott EC, Higgins EA, Desai NS
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Abstract Valproic acid (VPA) is among the most teratogenic of commonly prescribed anticonvulsants, increasing the risk in humans of major malformations and impaired cognitive development. Likewise, rats exposed prenatally to VPA exhibit a variety of neuroanatomical and behavioral abnormalities. Previous work has shown that pyramidal neuron physiology in young VPA-exposed animals is marked by two strong abnormalities: an impairment in intrinsic neuronal excitability and an increase in NMDA synaptic currents. In this study, we investigated these abnormalities across postnatal development using whole-cell patch recordings from layer 2/3 neurons of medial prefrontal cortex. We found that both abnormalities were at a peak soon after birth but were gradually corrected as animals matured, to the extent that normal excitability and NMDA currents had been restored by early adolescence. The manner in which this correction happened suggested coordination between the two processes. Using computational models fitted to the physiological data, we argue that the two abnormalities trade off against each other, with the effects on network activity of the one balancing the effects of the other. This may constitute part of the nervous system's homeostatic response to teratogenic insult: an attempt to maintain stability despite a strong challenge.
This article was published in J Neurosci
and referenced in Autism-Open Access