Different actions of anticonvulsant and anesthetic barbiturates revealed by use of cultured mammalian neurons

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Science  19 May 1978:
Vol. 200, Issue 4343, pp. 775-777
DOI: 10.1126/science.205953


Barbiturate anesthetics, but not anticonvulsants, abolish the spontaneous activity of cultured spinal cord neurons; directly increase membrane conductance, an effect which is suppressed by the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) antagonists picrotoxin and penicillin; and are more potent than anticonvulsants in augmenting GABA and depressing glutamate responses. Barbiturate anticonvulsants abolish picrotoxin-induced convulsive activity. These results indicate qualitative and quantitative differences between anesthetic and anticonvulsant barbiturates, which may explain their different clinical effects.

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