The mechanisms behind absence epilepsy

The interplay between two brain structures, the cortex and thalamus is important in the production of sleep, yet the same pathways are also crucial for generation of absence seizures.

Although the mechanisms remain elusive, it is thought that absence seizures are a distortion of normal electrical activity within the sleep circuitry. Important components of this circuitry are the cells of the thalamus that release an inhibitory chemical messenger, GABA. By acting on two different types of receptor, GABA can produce a mixture of short- and long-lived neuronal inhibition. However it is not known how these separate types of inhibition interact to shape normal or abnormal behaviour (sleep or absences respectively).

Dr Murray Herd’s research uses a variety of techniques to study the impact of GABA inhibition during states of sleep, wakefulness and absences, in order to increase our understanding of how alterations in the balance between short and long-lived inhibition (which would normally control sleep-wake cycles) may lead to absence seizures. 

This research could lead to the development of more targeted and effective drugs for absence epilepsy in the future.

Read more about research into the mechanisms behind absence epilepsy here.

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