Is the brainstem implicated in epilepsy?
People with epilepsy often complain about cognitive problems such as memory impairment and lack of concentration and focus. This is particularly the case with patients diagnosed with temporal lobe epilepsy who also frequently lose consciousness. Because seizures typically originate in the temporal lobe or other areas in the cortex of the brain (the surface of the structure rather than deep within the brain), the brain stem has very rarely been studied in epilepsy research. However new research from Vanderbilt University suggests that repeated seizures reduce brainstem connectivity possibly leading to the neurocognitive problems often associated with temporal lobe epilepsy. As Professor Englot, the study’s lead author says: “There have been other studies that show that connectivity in the brain is abnormal in epilepsy. But when researchers look at connectivity, typically they are looking in the temporal lobe and areas of the cortex, and they rarely look at the brainstem. ….. More and more, we’re learning that epilepsy is a condition affecting widespread brain networks, not just the temporal lobe.”
These findings are important because many people with epilepsy that is uncontrolled with antiepileptic medication experience debilitating seizures, leading to a poorer quality of life. It is hoped that early treatment with alternative therapies could reduce the damaging impact that continued seizures have on brain networks.
To read more about the University’s research you can click here