AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 27, Number 3, 2018

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Seizures Begin with a Muffle

Contrary to long-held assumptions, researchers find that some seizures start after a burst from neurons that inhibit brain activity.

Some patients describe epileptic seizures like an earthquake from within, starting slow and growing without their control. To a brain researcher, seizures are an electrical firestorm of neuronal activation in the brain. Now, studies at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University), have shown that some types of seizure paradoxically begin with a hush: a spike in inhibition. Neurons that dampen neuronal activity may be responsible for starting the large-scale over-activation of a seizure.

“This is the first time to our knowledge that this phenomenon of inhibition at the start of a seizure has been observed in humans,” said senior author Shennan Weiss, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Head of Thomas Jefferson Computational Epilepsy Laboratory at the Vickie & Jack Farber Institute for Neuroscience at Jefferson. “Such a shift in our thinking could change how we go about looking for new treatments for preventing epileptic seizures,” said Dr. Weiss, who also treats patients with the disease.

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