• AED;
  • epilepsy;
  • levetiracetam;
  • long-term potentiation;
  • paired associative transcranial magnetic stimulation


Antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) are used extensively in clinical practice but relatively little is known on their specific effects at the systems level of human cortex. Here we tested, using a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled crossover design in healthy subjects, the effects of a single therapeutic oral dose of seven AEDs with different modes of action (tiagabine, diazepam, gabapentin, lamotrigine, topiramate, levetiracetam and piracetam) on long-term potentiation (LTP)-like motor cortical plasticity induced by paired associative transcranial magnetic stimulation (PAS). PAS-induced LTP-like plasticity was assessed from the increase in motor evoked potential amplitude in a hand muscle contralateral to the stimulated motor cortex. Levetiracetam significantly reduced LTP-like plasticity when compared to the placebo condition. Tiagabine, diazepam, lamotrigine and piracetam resulted in nonsignificant trends towards reduction of LTP-like plasticity while gabapentin and topiramate had no effect. The particularly depressant effect of levetiracetam is probably explained by its unique mode of action through binding at the vesicle membrane protein SV2A. Enhancement of gamma-amino butyric acid-dependent cortical inhibition by tiagabine, diazepam and possibly levetiracetam, and blockage of voltage-gated sodium channels by lamotrigine, may also depress PAS-induced LTP-like plasticity but these mechanisms appear to be less relevant. Findings may inform about AED-related adverse effects on important LTP-dependent central nervous systems processes such as learning or memory formation. The particular depressant effect of levetiracetam on LTP-like plasticity may also relate to the unique properties of this drug to inhibit epileptogenesis, a potentially LTP-associated process.