In humans temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) is characterized by recurrent seizures, neuronal hyperexcitability, and selective loss of certain neuronal populations in the hippocampus. Animal models of the condition indicate that a diminution of inhibition mediated by gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) accounts for the altered function, and it has been hypothesized that the diminution arises because GABAergic basket interneurons are "dormant" as a result of their being disconnected from excitatory inputs. In hippocampal slices, inhibitory postsynaptic potentials (IPSPs) were elicited in CA1 pyramidal cells by activation of basket cells; responses from an animal model of TLE were compared to those from control tissue. IPSPs evoked indirectly by activation of terminals that then excited basket cells were reduced in the epileptic tissue, whereas IPSPs evoked by direct activation of basket cells, when excitatory neurotransmission was blocked, were not different from controls. These results provide support for the "dormant basket cell" hypothesis and have implications for the pathophysiology and treatment of human TLE.