Heat as a seizure trigger
The most common seizure trigger for children aged between 5 months and 6 years is fever. It is suspected that increased body temperature plays an important role in this, but infection and inflammation themselves could also be involved.
A recent study, published in the journal Epilepsy Research, shows that in a genetic (rodent) model of Dravet syndrome, elevated body temperature alone, without infection or inflammation, can increase susceptibility to fever-related (febrile) seizures. The research was carried out in Nashville, US.
Dravet syndrome is a severe childhood epilepsy disorder that is associated with abnormal changes in a number genes, including one called GABRG2. GABRG2 encodes a protein that helps to regulate inhibition (calming of neurons), and alterations in its function can upset the crucial balance between excitation and inhibition in the brain. In earlier work, the team in Nashville showed a link between between GABRG2 mutations and febrile seizures (and related epilepsies).
In the current study, the researchers found that, regardless of whether the rodents had any inflammation, brief heating of the body caused a rapid rise in body temperature and increased excitation of neurons, which led to seizures.
This finding suggests that the underlying cause of febrile (fever-related) seizures may involve genetic mutations that alter the brain’s heat regulation system. When body temperature rises, as during a fever, the brain simply cannot compensate.
If these findings are confirmed, it may become possible to genetically test babies for susceptibility to febrile seizures and possibly even prevent them.
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