The Link between Stress and Epileptic Seizures

Medical experts have made a lot of breakthroughs over the years with regards to their understanding of seizures, their causes and the best ways to control them. For a long while now, scientists have held the notion that stress can actually impact seizures, not only bringing about an increase in their frequency but their severity as well.

While medical science has produced numerous studies to prove the validity of this theory, the factors connecting stress to the severity of seizures have remained largely unknown, until now.

epilepsyA research team, whose results were published in the Science Signaling journal, believes that it has finally discovered the means through which the brain is altered by epileptic episodes in relation to stress.

Epilepsy is a neurological illness that manifests via recurrent seizures resulting from a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain. The number of people suffering from epilepsy around the world is quite substantial.

Medical experts have known for a while now that stress and anxiety can trigger epileptic episodes. In fact, doctors make it a point to advise their epileptic patients to avoid stress where possible in order to reduce the risk of seizures.

Of course, just because epileptic patients understand the importance of avoiding stressful situations doesn’t mean they always have the option to do so. Considering the erratic nature of today’s world, there are stress factors waiting around every corner.

The fact that medical experts have never truly understood how stress affects epilepsy explains why there are no effective methods for treating epilepsy, at least with regards to its relation to stress.

If the study published by Michael O. Poulter (University of Western Ontario) proves accurate, more effective methods of controlling stress-induced seizures might begin to emerge.

To achieve the objectives of their study, Poulter and his team scrutinized the activity of Corticotrophin-Releasing Factor (a neurotransmitter that governs behavioral responses to stress) in the brains of rats. They looked at both epileptic and non-epileptic rats.

Poulter worked to determine how the portion of the brain in which seizures among epileptic individuals occur (Piriform Cortex) was affected by CRF.

Poulter’s team observed that CRF reduced activity in the Piriform Cortex among non-epileptic rats. With the epileptic rats, though, there was an increase in activity in the Piriform Cortex.

This excitation of the Piriform Cortex was unexpected, with Poulter and group realizing that the neuronal signaling in the brains of these epileptic rats had been changed noticeably by CRF.

Poulter believes that blocking CRF among epileptic patients might help prevent stress-induced seizures. Additionally, Poulter believes that the conclusions of his study could prove useful to other neurological conditions like schizophrenia.