Electrophysiological studies of the rodent hippocampus show that repeated seizure activity has a profound, deleterious effect on an important form of synaptic plasticity (long-term potentiation, LTP) which has been suggested to underlie memory formation. It appears that seizure activity incrementally causes an indiscriminate and widespread induction of long-term potentiation, consuming and thereby reducing overall hippocampal plasticity available for information processing. Consistent with this finding, severe deficits in a form of learning known to be mediated by hippocampal function are observed in rat subjected to repeated electroconvulsive seizures (ECS). The effect on synaptic function gradually resolves over a period of around 40 days, paralleling the time course of the transitory cognitive impairment seen following electrical seizure induction (ECT) in humans being treated for severe affective disorder. The effect is likely to be mediated by NMDA receptor activation during seizure activity, as the phenomenon can be prevented by the administration of a non-competitive NMDA receptor associated channel blocker (ketamine) immediately before seizure induction. The mechanisms described may account for the inter-ictal cognitive disturbance observed in patients suffering from poorly controlled epilepsy.