A single switch dictates severity of epileptic seizures, researchers find

by Bill Hathaway
A single switch dictates severity of epileptic seizures, Yale researchers find
Credit: Michael S. Helfenbein

A switch in the brain of people with epilepsy dictates whether their seizures will be relatively mild or lead to a dangerous and debilitating loss of consciousness, Yale researchers have found.

The study published April 11 in the journal Neurology showed that there was no gradation of impairment during —subjects were either alert or totally unaware of their surroundings.

The existence of an "all or none" switch for consciousness surprised researchers, who expected to find different levels of awareness among those who experience focal seizures, or those localized to particular brain areas.

"During seizures patients may report a funny, fearful feeling, tingling in their arm or some quirk in their vision but are able to answer all our questions," said Dr. Hal Blumenfeld, professor of neurology, neurobiology, and neurosurgery, and senior author of the study. "At other times—boom—all of a sudden they are in a daze, unable to respond to their environment."

Blumenfeld said previous studies have shown that this switch rests in areas of the brain stem that play a role in waking and in paying attention to your surroundings. The findings suggest that existing drugs that treat narcolepsy or therapies like might help patients with .

"Our goal is to prevent seizures, but in a fifth to a quarter of people have seizures no matter what we do," Blumenfeld said. "For them, therapies that would prevent would greatly improve quality of life."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Early treatment stops epilepsy in its tracks

Dec 13, 2007

Yale School of Medicine researchers have shown for the first time that it is possible to suppress the development of epilepsy in genetically predisposed animals—which could open the door to treating epilepsy ...

Can epileptic seizures be prevented or predicted?

Mar 31, 2014

A biomedical engineering professor at the Institute of Biomaterials & Biomedical Engineering (IBBME) and the Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering (ECE), Bardakjian works with a team of neurological ...

Implantable medical device for epilepsy

Dec 03, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—Physicians at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Strong Epilepsy Center were involved in the recent approval of a new treatment for epilepsy. The implantable medical device ...

Recommended for you

Link seen between seizures and migraines in the brain

10 hours ago

Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link ...

Neuroscience: Why scratching makes you itch more

16 hours ago

Turns out your mom was right: Scratching an itch only makes it worse. New research from scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis indicates that scratching causes the brain to release ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.