Electrical Recording of Brain Activity: The EEG and its Value in Assessing Drug Effects

Part of the Handbook of Psychopharmacology book series (HBKPS, volume 2)


The spontaneous and evoked electrical activity of the brain as recorded by means of macroelectrodes has been extensively investigated by psychopharmacologists (see bibliography by Fink, 1964). Used as an empirical tool, it can indicate the kind of behavioral effect a new drug will have in animals or man (e.g., Itil, 1973). However, with our present inadequate understanding of the relationship between electrochemical events at the cellular level and the gross electrical activity of the brain, it is rare that specific conclusions can be drawn about the mode of action of the drug. The problems are particularly severe when the spontaneous activity of the brain is studied by conventional EEG means alone. However, when activity in specific pathways is evoked either by focal electrical stimulation or by sensory stimulation in the appropriate modality, the possibility of correlating drug effects with cellular events is enhanced. In animal experiments, by the use of intracerebral electrodes to obtain focal recordings, we can approach the optimal situation whereby only one synapse intervenes between the pathway stimulated and the neuros producing the potential we are recording. This offers the possibility of direct correlation with microelectrode studies. However, even in such a situation there are often inadequately identified variables such as drug-induced changes in background excitation or inhibition or in feedback mechanisms so that any direct action of the systemically administered drug on the synapse studied is difficult to identify.


Contingent Negative Variation Presynaptic Inhibition Sleep Spindle Epileptic Discharge Electrical Recording 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of NeurologyInstitute of PsychiatryLondonEngland

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