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Epileptic seizures come in several varieties. Most are familiar with tonic-clonic seizures, which are characterized by large convulsions. However, several kinds of childhood epilepsy are characterized absence seizures in which children experience widespread erratic brain activity that leaves them unconscious for a number of seconds, but without any convulsions. Absence seizures are associated with spike-wave discharges (SWDs) -- irregular brain activity that can be recorded on electrocorticograms. While some medications are available, a clearer understanding of how these types of seizures begin in the brain will lead to the development of better therapies.
Because children with these types of epilepsy often have mutations in the STXBP1 or SCN2A genes, scientists have created mouse models of these childhood epilepsies by mutating these genes. For both genes, the team at RIKEN CBS created mice with one normal gene and one mutated gene -- a condition called haplodeficiency, which is different from a complete knockout. After establishing that their mice experienced absence seizures, as evidenced by SWDs over the somatosensory cortex, they performed a series of experiments to determine how they were triggered.
SWDs - Drugs - Inhibit - Neurons - Scientists
SWDs can be blocked by drugs than inhibit neurons from exciting each other. The scientists injected a neuronal inhibitor into several brain regions hoping to find which ones were related...
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