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Homeostatic Plasticity Studied Using In Vivo Hippocampal Activity-Blockade: Synaptic Scaling, Intrinsic Plasticity and Age-Dependence

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Homeostatic plasticity is thought to be important in preventing neuronal circuits from becoming hyper- or hypoactive. However, there is little information concerning homeostatic mechanisms following in vivo manipulations of activity levels. We investigated synaptic scaling and intrinsic plasticity in CA1 pyramidal cells following 2 days of activity-blockade in vivo in adult (postnatal day 30; P30) and juvenile (P15) rats. Chronic activity-blockade in vivo was achieved using the sustained release of the sodium channel blocker tetrodotoxin (TTX) from the plastic polymer Elvax 40W implanted directly above the hippocampus, followed by electrophysiological assessment in slices in vitro. Three sets of results were in general agreement with previous studies on homeostatic responses to in vitro manipulations of activity. First, Schaffer collateral stimulation-evoked field responses were enhanced after 2 days of in vivo TTX application. Second, miniature excitatory postsynaptic current (mEPSC) amplitudes were potentiated. However, the increase in mEPSC amplitudes occurred only in juveniles, and not in adults, indicating age-dependent effects. Third, intrinsic neuronal excitability increased. In contrast, three sets of results sharply differed from previous reports on homeostatic responses to in vitro manipulations of activity. First, miniature inhibitory postsynaptic current (mIPSC) amplitudes were invariably enhanced. Second, multiplicative scaling of mEPSC and mIPSC amplitudes was absent. Third, the frequencies of adult and juvenile mEPSCs and adult mIPSCs were increased, indicating presynaptic alterations. These results provide new insights into in vivo homeostatic plasticity mechanisms with relevance to memory storage, activity-dependent development and neurological diseases.

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