The long-term effects of brief but repetitive febrile seizures (FS) on memory have not been as thoroughly investigated as the impact of single and prolonged seizure in the developing brain. Using a heated-air FS paradigm, we subjected male rat pups to one, three, or nine episodes of brief FS on days 10 to 12 postpartum. Neither hippocampal neuronal damage nor apoptosis was noted within 72 hours after FS, nor was there significant hippocampal neuronal loss, aberrant mossy fiber sprouting, or altered seizure threshold to pentylenetetrazol in any FS group at adulthood. The adult rats subjected to nine episodes of early-life FS, however, showed long-term memory deficits as assessed by the Morris water maze. They also exhibited impaired intermediate and long-term memory but spared short-term memory in the inhibitory avoidance task. Three hours after inhibitory avoidance training, phosphorylation of cAMP response-element binding (CREB) protein in the hippocampus was significantly lower in nine-FS-group rats than in controls. Furthermore, rolipram administration, which activated the cAMP-CREB signaling pathway by inhibiting phosphodiesterase type IV, reversed the long-term memory deficits in nine-FS-group rats by enhancing hippocampal CREB phosphorylation. These results raise concerns about the long-term cognitive consequences of even brief frequently repetitive FS during early brain development.
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