ScienceDaily reports new findings that may explain why acquired epilepsy is sometimes a result of a traumatic brain injury..
The study’s lead author, CU-Boulder’s psychology and neuroscience Professor Daniel Barth, believes that this new information can be used to prevent acquired epilepsy (also called adult epilepsy). The researchers found that the seizures are possible linked to the chemicals the brain releases when it attempts to heal a damaged area after a head injury.
Up until now, the most prevalent theory has attributed seizures to ‘electrical storms’ in the brain, caused by ‘excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain’ ‘“ overactive neurons. Barth’s research may change this notion, instead pointing to micro-glial cells as the culprits.
“When there has been serious damage to the brain, such as a head injury or infection, the immune system is activated and tries to counteract the damage and repair it,” Barth said. “These glial cells migrate to the damaged area and release chemicals called cytokines that, unfortunately, also profoundly increase the excitability of the neurons that they are near.
“In our new study, we showed for the first time that glial cells moving in and secreting these cytokines cause the neurons in the area to become excitable enough to cause seizures.”
The theory is that temporarily switching off the brain’s immune system soon after a traumatic brain injury is incurred will prevent the development of acquired epilepsy.
“After a traumatic brain injury, there is often a period of several months where nothing seems to be happening,” Barth said. “And then suddenly the person may start having seizures, which often develop into chronic epilepsy.”
The CU research team believes that the initial seizures are caused by the brain’s immune response to the injury and that they are then cemented through actual structural changes to the brain. There are drugs that can be used to suppress this glial cell response, hopefully preventing the changes that lead to epilepsy.
Image from here.