Cause of recurrent seizures revealed
Researchers studying mice have shown that an increase in excitability in calcium channels in the brain could explain recurrent seizures.
Calcium channels are found throughout the body. The channels located in the brain allow calcium ions to pass into the brain cells, where they are responsible for the brain’s electrical activity, something which becomes imbalanced in epilepsy.
It is believed that some people have a genetic susceptibility to epilepsy, but the team wanted to study how people without this disposition develop the disorder. Previous studies have suggested that calcium channels (specifically the ones found in the hippocampus region of the brain) increase in number after initial seizures. It is thought that this increase causes an imbalance in the brain, leaving the brain more susceptible to further seizures.
The team wanted to find out whether the thalamus also contributes to the development of epilepsy. After they induced seizures in mice, the number of calcium channels increased in the thalamus, but not in the hippocampus. This suggests that the gene that codes for calcium channels can be switched on, increasing the channels in the thalamus and the likelihood of seizures.
These new findings will help in the search for better therapies for epilepsy. Further studies can concentrate on reducing the channels in the thalamus, or preventing the gene from being switched on.