In some mammals, epileptic seizures have been induced in the cerebral cortex, hippocampus and other limbic structures after the sudden suppression of chronically infused GABA. This hyperexcitability state induced by the endogenous neurotransmitter resembles the withdrawal seizure-responses to other GABA(A) receptor agonists such as benzodiazepines, barbiturates and alcohol.Hyperexcitability induced by GABA withdrawal also persists in in vitro preparation. Hippocampal slices, obtained from rats with seizures induced by GABA-withdrawal showed field potential oscillations and paroxysmal activity in the Ammon's horn region 1. During GABA-withdrawal hyperexcitability the threshold of hippocampal long-term potentiation (LTP) decreased to a point in which a brief frequency stimulation that normally failed to produce long lasting changes in synaptic strength, was now able to induce LTP. Facilitation of the LTP induction was associated with a decreased GABA(A)-mediated inhibitory activity, because the effect of the GABA(A) receptor antagonist, bicuculline, was occluded during hyperexcitability and the dose-response curve for bicuculline showed a 50% efficacy reduction with a shift in the effective concentration required for half-maximal activation from 4.5-1.1 muM relative to controls. Nevertheless, the dissociation constant of the antagonist did not change significantly.Our results support the idea that changes in hippocampal plasticity under altered inhibitory neurotransmission states, like those induced by withdrawal syndromes to anxiolytic, sedative or anticonvulsant drugs may be engaged during seizures. (C) 2004 IBRO. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.