PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to investigate whether the nucleus parafascicularis (Pf) of the thalamus could be a relay of the control of epileptic seizures by the superior colliculus (SC). The Pf is one of the main ascending projections of the SC, the disinhibition of which has been shown to suppress seizures in different animal models and has been proposed as the main relay of the nigral control of epilepsy. METHODS: Rats with genetic absence seizures (generalized absence epilepsy rat from Strasbourg or GAERS) were used in this study. The effect of bilateral microinjection of picrotoxin, a gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) antagonist, in the SC on the glutamate and GABA extracellular concentration within the Pf was first investigated by using microdialysis. In a second experiment, the effect of direct activation of Pf neurons on the occurrence of absence seizures was examined with microinjection of low doses of kainate, a glutamate agonist. RESULTS: Bilateral injection of picrotoxin (33 pmol/side) in the SC suppressed spike-and-wave discharges for 20 min. This treatment resulted in an increase of glutamate but not GABA levels in the Pf during the same time course. Bilateral injection of kainate (35 pmol/side) into the Pf significantly suppressed spike-and-wave discharges for 20 min, whereas such injections were without effects when at least one site was located outside the Pf. CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that glutamatergic projections to the Pf could be involved in the control of seizures by the SC. Disinhibition of these neurons could lead to seizure suppression and may be involved in the nigral control of epilepsy.
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