Daily and weekly cycles of epileptic seizures more common than previously thought

September 13, 2018, Lancet

The timing of seizures may be linked to natural rhythms in around 80% of people with epilepsy, according to the largest study of individual patients' seizure cycles including more than 1,000 people, published in The Lancet Neurology journal.

Most people's seizures occurred in a circadian (ie, 24-hour) rhythm, but some people experienced weekly and 3-weekly cycles in their seizures, and some had a combination of daily, weekly or longer cycles associated with their seizures.

While patterns are known to vary over days, months and years, previous studies have been short-term or in small groups. The new study gives robust evidence of seizure cycles, showing that they are patient-specific and more common than previously thought.

"Understanding the cyclic nature of diseases is vital for treating diseases like epilepsy that continuously fluctuate in their severity," says senior author Professor Mark Cook, The University of Melbourne, Australia. "The human body is a collection of thousands of clocks, each cycling in accordance with their own pacemaker. For example, some cells can track time with millisecond accuracy, while hormonal cycles might have longer periods of hours, days or more. Combined in the body, the presence of all of these cycles has a fundamental effect on our health."

The link between and other has been studied for hundreds of years, and some now-disproven historical hypotheses suggested a link between the phases of the moon and seizure rates. More recently, the possible links have included associations with stress levels, seasonal variations in sleep quality, and other biological processes involved in sleep, menstruation and hibernation.

The new study used data from a seizure tracking website and mobile phone app with which 1118 patients with epilepsy recorded and tracked their seizures, and from a small study in which 12 people with epilepsy had a device fitted that recorded the electrical activity in their brain. The authors looked at the data for seizure frequency between six hours and three months, using statistical analysis to identify trends in individual patients' seizure cycles. The study only included people who had frequent seizures.

80% (891/1118) of people using the website and mobile app and 92% (11/12) of people whose brain activity was recorded showed circadian rhythms in their seizures. Additionally, 7-21% (77-233/1118) of people using the website and mobile app showed weekly rhythms, and 14-22% (151-247/1118) of people had cycles that were longer than three weeks.

In addition, around two-thirds of people in the study (64%, 720/1118) had more than one type of cycle associated with their seizures. The authors say that the weekly cycle in seizures is particularly interesting, as the physiological cause of a weekly cycle is not as well established as a circadian rhythm, and it is debated whether this is natural or environmental.

For people with a circadian cycle to their seizures, peak time of seizures varied across the day, but more seizures occurred at about 8am and 8pm. Weekly cycles did not favour any day of the week, but more people had seizures on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

The results were similar for men and women, and for people with different forms of epilepsy. The authors believe that the cycles drive the likelihood of the seizures, rather than epilepsy driving the cycles.

They also say that the findings could have important implications for patients by helping them to predict and manage their seizures. They note that, after further research, the findings could help guide treatment.

"The ubiquity of seizure cycles indicates that this is an important clinical phenomenon that affects most patients. This means it could be an important way to improve treatment for many people with epilepsy. Even without fully understanding the mechanisms of seizure cycles, temporal patterns can be incorporated into patient management plans, through chronotherapy—the process of scheduling medication so that drug concentrations match to times when seizures are more likely. However, the daily cycles might also be caused by peaks and troughs in drug effectiveness due to how the drug is metabolised in the body, so altering this could just alter the timings of a person's seizures. Adapting drug timings to suit weekly or monthly cycles has also not yet been explored." Explains Professor Cook.

The authors note some limitations, including that the majority of the data from the study are self-reported and could be therefore biased. However, the authors note that inaccuracy would not invalidate the cycles detected if the majority of seizures reported were real, and the inaccurate ones were distributed evenly across the day.

They also note that they could only study the trends up to three months and so could not consider yearly or seasonal variations, nor the effect of holidays or daylight savings time.

Writing in a linked Comment, Professor Andreas Schulze-Bonhage, University Hospital Freiburg, Germany, says: "Ultraslow oscillations in brain excitability are so far barely understood. There is evidence emerging that such slow cycles below well-known influence both, physiological functioning and disease states. It is remarkable that the group of Mark Cook found such long-lasting cycling alterations in seizure propensity over several weeks, which have also been reported in chronic psychiatric diseases."

Explore further: Monthly brain cycles predict seizures in patients with epilepsy

More information: The Lancet Neurology (2018). www.thelancet.com/journals/lan … (18)30274-6/fulltext

Related Stories

Monthly brain cycles predict seizures in patients with epilepsy

January 8, 2018
UC San Francisco neurologists have discovered monthly cycles of brain activity linked to seizures in patients with epilepsy. The finding, published online January 8 in Nature Communications, suggests it may soon be possible ...

Brain implant could stop epilepsy seizures

August 30, 2018
For many people who suffer from neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, there are no viable treatment options. In our latest research, we developed an implantable device that may one day offer relief. We show that the implant ...

Cannabis compound reduces seizures

February 27, 2018
About one third of patients treated for epilepsy continue to have seizures. Cannabidiol (CBD), one of the many active compounds in the cannabis (marijuana) plant, has gained attention as a treatment for epilepsy. Purified ...

Too few adults taking epilepsy meds have seizure control

April 23, 2018
(HealthDay)—Although most adults with epilepsy report taking epilepsy medication, less than half of those report having their seizures controlled, according to research published in the April 20 issue of the U.S. Centers ...

Repairing a leaky blood-brain barrier in epilepsy

April 9, 2018
Blocking the activity of an enzyme that has a key role in the generation of recurring seizures may provide a new way to treat epilepsy that is resistant to anti-seizure drugs, according to a study of rats and mice published ...

Greater seizure frequency seen in women with epilepsy during anovulatory cycle

July 14, 2011
A recent multi-center study determined that women with generalized tonic-clonic seizures (GTCS) had a greater number of seizures during anovulatory cycles—menstrual cycles where an egg is not released—than in cycles ...

Recommended for you

Use of electrical brain stimulation to foster creativity has sweeping implications

September 18, 2018
What is creativity, and can it be enhanced—safely—in a person who needs a boost of imagination? Georgetown experts debate the growing use of electrical devices that stimulate brain tissue, and conclude there is potential ...

Engineers decode conversations in brain's motor cortex

September 18, 2018
How does your brain talk with your arm? The body doesn't use English, or any other spoken language. Biomedical engineers are developing methods for decoding the conversation, by analyzing electrical patterns in the motor ...

Team identifies brain's lymphatic vessels as new avenue to treat multiple sclerosis

September 17, 2018
Lymphatic vessels that clean the brain of harmful material play a crucial role in the development and progression of multiple sclerosis, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests. The vessels ...

Circuit found for brain's statistical inference about motion

September 17, 2018
As the eye tracks a bird flying past, the muscles that pan the eyeballs to keep the target in focus set their pace not only on the speed they see, but also on a reasonable estimate of the speed they expect from having watched ...

Mouse study reveals that activity, not rest, speeds recovery after brain injury

September 17, 2018
When recovering from a brain injury, getting back in the swing of things may be more effective than a prolonged period of rest, according to a new Columbia study in mice. These findings offer a compelling example of the brain's ...

Opioid users could benefit from meth-relapse prevention strategy, study finds

September 17, 2018
New research raises the possibility that a wider group of people battling substance use disorders may benefit from a Scripps Research-developed relapse-prevention compound than previously thought.


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.