Pediatric traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a leading cause of death and disability in children. When TBI occurs in children it often results in severe cognitive and behavioral deficits. Post-injury, the pediatric brain may be sensitive to the effects of TBI while undergoing a number of age-dependent physiological and neurobiological changes. Due to the nature of the developing cortex, it is important to understand how a pediatric brain recovers from a severe TBI (sTBI) compared to an adult. Investigating major cortical and cellular changes after sTBI in a pediatric model can elucidate why pediatrics go on to suffer more neurological damage than an adult after head trauma. To model pediatric sTBI, I use controlled cortical impact (CCI) in juvenile mice (P22). First, I show that by 14 days after injury, animals begin to show recurrent, non-injury induced, electrographic seizures. Also, using whole-cell patch clamp, layer V pyramidal neurons in the peri-injury area show no changes except single-cell excitatory and inhibitory synaptic bursts. These results demonstrate that CCI induces epileptiform activity and distinct synaptic bursting within 14 days of injury without altering the intrinsic properties of layer V pyramidal neurons. Second, I characterized changes to the cortical inhibitory network and how fast-spiking (FS) interneurons in the peri-injury region function after CCI. I found that there is no loss of interneurons in the injury zone, but a 70% loss of parvalbumin immunoreactivity (PV-IR). FS neurons received less inhibitory input and greater excitatory input. Finally, I show that the cortical interneuron network is also affected in the contralateral motor cortex. The contralateral motor cortex shows a loss of interneurons and loss of PV-IR. Contralateral FS neurons in the motor cortex synaptically showed greater excitatory input and less inhibitory input 14 days after injury. In summary, this work demonstrates that by 14 days after injury, the pediatric cortex develops epileptiform activity likely due to cortical inhibitory network dysfunction. These findings provide novel insight into how pediatric cortical networks function in the injured brain and suggest potential circuit level mechanisms that may contribute to neurological disorders as a result of TBI.
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