An experimental study of childhood absence epilepsy (CAE) suggests that brain activity is disturbed in between seizures (not just during them), and that this activity can continue despite therapy. This could potentially explain why some children with CAE experience problems with cognition (e.g. attention deficit), even though they are being successfully treated. The findings are published in the Journal of Physiology.The work was carried out by Professor Jeffrey Noebels and colleagues, at the Baylor College of Medicine, in Texas. They acquired two genetic rodent models of absence epilepsy and used EEG to study their brain activity between seizures. They did this both before and after administering treatments that could either stop or exacerbate seizures, and they compared the readings to those from unaffected rodents.The team discovered that the rodents with epilepsy had an abnormality in their brain activity both before and after treatment. As they didn’t perform behavioural tests on the animals, they cannot conclude that the abnormalities are linked to attention deficit; however, they plan to investigate this in the near future.EEG is currently used to detect seizures, rather than to identify cognitive problems. If research confirms that the abnormalities between seizures found here are linked to attention (and other cognitive) problems in humans, studying EEG activity between seizures could be a helpful way of diagnosing and monitoring cognitive problems in CAE. It might potentially be possible to treat these the same time as a child’s seizures.Dr Atul Maheshwari, First Author on the study, comments:’We plan to evaluate whether the abnormalities we found are associated with deficits in attention in these and other mouse models. In addition, we plan to treat these mice with standard treatments for attention deficit disorder such as Ritalin and determine whether the behaviour and the EEG abnormalities can be corrected.’