1. The after-effects of repetitive stimulation of the perforant path fibres to the dentate area of the hippocampal formation have been examined with extracellular micro-electrodes in rabbits anaesthetized with urethane.
2. In fifteen out of eighteen rabbits the population response recorded from granule cells in the dentate area to single perforant path volleys was potentiated for periods ranging from 30 min to 10 hr after one or more conditioning trains at 10–20/sec for 10–15 sec, or 100/sec for 3–4 sec.
3. The population response was analysed in terms of three parameters: the amplitude of the population excitatory post-synaptic potential (e.p.s.p.), signalling the depolarization of the granule cells, and the amplitude and latency of the population spike, signalling the discharge of the granule cells.
4. All three parameters were potentiated in 29% of the experiments; in other experiments in which long term changes occurred, potentiation was confined to one or two of the three parameters. A reduction in the latency of the population spike was the commonest sign of potentiation, occurring in 57% of all experiments. The amplitude of the population e.p.s.p. was increased in 43%, and of the population spike in 40%, of all experiments.
5. During conditioning at 10–20/sec there was massive potentiation of the population spike (‘frequency potentiation’). The spike was suppressed during stimulation at 100/sec. Both frequencies produced long-term potentiation.
6. The results suggest that two independent mechanisms are responsible for long-lasting potentiation: (a) an increase in the efficiency of synaptic transmission at the perforant path synapses; (b) an increase in the excitability of the granule cell population.