Age-dependent vulnerability to seizures.

E. F. Sperber, J. Velísková, I. M. Germano, L. K. Friedman, S. L. Moshé

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Seizure disorders frequently occur early in life. Seizures are classified as reactive, symptomatic, or idiopathic depending on whether their cause can be identified. Reactive seizures are the result of acute environmental perturbations. Early in life, many stressors can produce seizures and the ultimate outcome may depend on the particular precipitating factor and its intensity. Febrile convulsions are the most common reactive seizures, although they must be differentiated from symptomatic seizures precipitated by fever. Symptomatic seizures are often associated with varying degrees of central nervous system (CNS) insults, including congenital malformations and metabolic storage diseases of the gray matter. These seizures may have age-specific characteristics and may at times be difficult to treat with conventional antiepileptic treatments. To develop a better understanding of the pathophysiology of seizures early in life, we have extensively used animal models of epilepsy. In this chapter, we report our findings with a rat model of developmental cortical dysplasias produced by intrauterine injections of methylazoxymethanol acetate. These rats are more susceptible to kainic acid, flurothyl, and hyperthermic seizures than normal rats. Rats with severe cortical dysplasia are most susceptible to seizures. We have also studied the mechanisms involved in the control of seizures during development because status epilepticus is more prevalent in infants than in adults. Our data suggest that the substantia nigra may play a crucial role in status epilepticus as a function of age. In the adult substantia nigra two regions mediate opposing effects on seizures following infusions of gamma-aminobutyric acid type A (GABAA) agents. One region is located in the anterior substantia nigra, and muscimol infusions in this region mediate anticonvulsant effects. The second region is in the posterior substantia nigra, and here muscimol infusions produce proconvulsant effects. In situ hybridization data demonstrate that, at the cellular level, neurons in the two substantia nigra regions differ in the amount of hybridization grains for GABAA receptor alpha 1 and gamma 2L subunit mRNAs. In developing male rats, only the "proconvulsant" region is present up to the age of 21 days. The transition from the immature to mature substantia nigra mediated seizure control occurs between age 25 and 30 days. The identification of age-dependent functional networks involved in the containment of seizures may lead to possible new pharmacologic strategies to control seizures, thus aiding the development of age-appropriate treatments of seizure disorders.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-169
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in neurology
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


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