People with epilepsy frequently report emotional stress/anxiety in the lead-up to a seizure; but although the association between stress and seizures is well recognised, the underlying  mechanisms are still not understood.A research study, published yesterday in the journal Science Signaling, has produced exciting findings that may help the development of new strategies to treat stress-induced epilepsy.Using a rodent model of epilepsy, scientists at the University of Western Ontario in Canada discovered that the brain of rats with epilepsy responded to stress in a different way than that of ‘normal’ control animals.The research, led by Professor Michael O. Poulter, focused on a neurotransmitter – or chemical messenger that communicates information between brain cells – called corticotrophin releasing factor (CRF). CRF is known to be responsible for initiating the body’s stress response.CRF normally dampens neuronal activity in a region of the brain called piriform cortex, but the team noticed that it had the opposite effect of enhancing neuronal activity in the brains of animals with experimentally-induced seizures.The piriform cortex is a region of the brain in which excessive neuronal activity has been shown to lead to seizures. If the change seen in the brain of the animal models also occurs in the brain of people with epilepsy, it could explain how stress acts as a seizure trigger.These findings could potentially help the development new epilepsy therapies that block the abnormal effect of CRF in the piriform cortex, and hopefully prevent stress-induced seizures.In a press release, Professor Poulter commented: “We are very excited about this possibility for treating epilepsy patients.”Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more articles about other treatments for epilepsy.