The recording of visual evoked potentials in rabbits has been shown to be an objective, reproducible, noninvasive technique for quantitating changes in the pattern of cerebral neuronal activity. The development of hepatic encephalopathy due to galactosamine-inducedfulminant hepatic failure was consistently associated with a series of distinctive changes in the visual evoked potential waveform. The pattern of the visual evoked potential in hepatic coma (due to galactosamine-inducedfulminant hepatic failure) differed fundamentally from that in ether-induced coma, but was identical to that in comas induced by three drugs which activate γ-aminobutyric acid-ergic neural mechanisms: pentobarbital, diazepam, and muscimol. These findings are compatible with activation of the γ-aminobutyric acid inhibitory neurotransmitter system contributing to cerebral neuronal inhibition in hepatic coma due to galactosamine-inducedfulminant hepatic failure.
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