Characterization of Neuronal Migration Disorders in Neocortical Structures: Loss or Preservation of Inhibitory Interneurons?


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Heiko J. Lühmann at Institute of Neurophysiology, University of Düsseldorf, PO Box 101007, D-40001 Düsseldorf, Germany. E-mail:


Summary: Purpose: Neuronal migration disorders (NMD) are often associated with therapy-resistant epilepsy. In human cerebral cortex, this hyperexcitability has been correlated with a loss of inhibitory interneurons. We used a rat model of focal cortical NMD (microgyria) to determine whether the expression of epileptiform activity in this model coincides with a decrease in inhibitory interneurons.

Methods: In 2- to 4-month-old rats, the density of interneurons immunoreactive for γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), cal-bindin, and parvalbumin was determined in fronto-parietal cortex in nine 200-μm-wide sectors located up to 2.5 mm lateral and 2.0 mm medial from the lesion center in primary parietal cortex (Par 1). Quantitative measurements in homotopic areas of age-matched sham-operated rats served as controls.

Results: The freeze lesion performed in newborn rat cortex resulted in adult rats with a microgyrus extending in a rostro-caudal direction from frontal to occipital cortex. The density of GABA- and parvalbumin-positive neurons in fronto-parietal cortex was not significantly different between lesioned and control animals. Only the density of calbindin-immunoreactive neurons located 1.0 mm lateral and 0.5 mm medial from the lesion was significantly (Student t test, p > 0.05) larger in freeze-lesioned rats (5.817 ± 562 and 6,400 ± 795 cells per mm3, respectively; n = 12) compared with measurements in homotopic regions in Parl cortex of controls (4,507 ± 281 and 4,061 ± 319 cells per mm3, respectively; n = 5).

Conclusions: The previously reported widespread functional changes in this model of cortical NMD are not related to a general loss of inhibitory interneurons. Other factors, such as a decrease in GABA receptor density, modifications in GABAA receptor subunit composition, or alterations in the excitatory network, e.g., an increase in the density of calbindin-immunoreactive pyramidal cells, more likely contribute to the global disinhibition and widespread expression of pathophysiological activity in this model of cortical NMD.