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Spreading depression (SD) was studied with intracellular and extracellular recordings and with photometry in slices of rat hippocampus. Repetitive electrical stimulation could initiate SD in either normal medium or in low-Ca2+ medium containing Mn2+, especially during transient hypoxia. The extracellular voltage near CA1 pyramidal somata and dendrites became negative by approximately 18 mV during SD. This negativity peaked more slowly in low-Ca2+ medium containing Mn2+. The wave of negativity propagated across the slice in both media at approximately 6 mm/min. Input resistance of pyramidal neurons became undetectable during SD, and differential voltage recording between neurons and adjacent extracellular space demonstrated that transmembrane potential approached zero. Slices became more opaque during SD. Photometry revealed approximately 10% increase in reflectance and a similar decrease in transmittance of white light, which occurred with a time course similar to the extracellularly recorded voltage shift. These data support the hypothesis that SD represents a large increase in membrane permeability associated with substantial movements of water. The persistance of SD in a bathing solution that blocked electrically evoked postsynaptic potentials suggests that the contribution of synaptic transmitter release to the propagation of SD should be reappraised.

Original publication





Journal of neurophysiology

Publication Date





561 - 572


Hippocampus, Synapses, Animals, Rats, Inbred Strains, Rats, Calcium, Manganese, Synaptic Transmission, Membrane Potentials, Electric Conductivity, Models, Neurological, Female, Male, Cortical Spreading Depression, In Vitro Techniques