Understanding absence epilepsy

Understanding absence epilepsy

Research by Cardiff University has uncovered the brain activity that underlies absence epilepsy, offering new hope for the development of innovative therapies for this disabling disease.

Absence epilepsy – the most common form of epilepsy in children and teenagers – causes episodes of lack of awareness which are often mistaken for daydreaming. The brain activity that causes this form of epilepsy has remained poorly understood, until recent research has observed this activity for the first time.

An international team of researchers led by Professor Vincenzo Crunelli, from Cardiff University’s School of Biosciences, investigated the types of electrical activity that occurred in the brains of mice during an absence seizure.

Professor Crunelli said: “Although the origin of absence epilepsy remains poorly understood, we do know that if we monitor the electrical activity in the brain during a seizure, we see peaks in the activity called spike and wave discharges.

“We also know that synchronous activity in a part of the brain called the thalamocortical network, which is organised in a feedback loop, underlies the appearance of these spike-wave discharges.

“But the relationship between the brain cell activities in this loop, and how these relationships lead to the brain activity in absence seizures, is strongly debated.”

The group of researchers from Cardiff University, University of Malta, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the University of Szeged in Hungary, simultaneously recorded brain activity between several different brain areas during absence seizures for the first time. This allowed them to observe the relationships between the different regions of the brain during an absence seizure, and they found that it played a role in the presence of the spike and wave discharges.

Professor Crunelli added: “We discovered that the activity of the thalamocortical brain cells were synchronised by other parts of the brain, increasing activity when receiving instruction from the cortex and decreasing activity when instructed by a part of the brain called the thalamic reticular nucleus.
“We also uncovered that, contrary to what was previously thought, the properties of the cells in the thalamocortical loop aren’t really involved in the development of the spike and wave discharges.

“This new research is fundamental for the development of innovative therapies for this disabling childhood and juvenile disease.”

Source: HealthCanal.com

Childhood Absence Epilepsy: 5 Things You Need to Know

Childhood Absence Epilepsy: 5 Things You Need to Know

Childhood absence epilepsy (CAE), a syndrome that occurs in 1 out of 1000 children, is one of the most common types of early childhood (first decade) seizures. A classic CAE scenario may be that of a little girl who has just started kindergarten and has periods of “blanking out” every day. Her teacher calls out her name, but she does not respond. She sometimes blinks her eyes a few times and is back to “normal” in about 20 seconds. The teacher alerts the parents, who then make an appointment to see the pediatrician. Typically, the parents report never noticing these episodes at home. (more…)

New Epilepsy Tactic: Fight Inflammation

New Epilepsy Tactic: Fight Inflammation

In November 2008, when he was just 6, William Moller had his first epileptic seizure, during a reading class at school. For about 20 seconds, he simply froze in place, as if someone had pressed a pause button. He could not respond to his teacher.

This is known as an absence seizure, and over the next year William, now 10, who lives with his family in Brooklyn, went from having one or two a day to suffering constant seizures. Not all were absence seizures; others were frightening tonic-clonics, also known as grand mals, during which he lost consciousness and convulsed.

The seizures often came while he was eating. As his body went rigid, William dropped his food and his eyes rolled back into their sockets. If he seized while standing, he suddenly crashed to the ground — in a corridor, in the driveway, on the stairs.

“It’s the scariest thing for any mother to hear that thump, and each time he would hit his head, so it only made things worse and worse,” said his mother, Elisa Moller, a pediatric nurse.

William is among the one-third of epilepsy sufferers who do not respond, or respond only poorly, to anti-epileptic medications. Now he and others with refractory epilepsy are benefiting from treatment that targets inflammation, the result of new research into how epilepsy damages the brain.

“Many of us theorize that the two are tied — inflammation causes seizures, and seizures cause inflammation,” said Orrin Devinsky, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at the New York University Langone Medical Center and William’s doctor. “Over time, both of them may feed off each other.” (more…)

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