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Concept: Myoclonus


Genetic generalized epilepsies (GGEs) have a lifetime prevalence of 0.3% and account for 20-30% of all epilepsies. Despite their high heritability of 80%, the genetic factors predisposing to GGEs remain elusive. To identify susceptibility variants shared across common GGE syndromes, we carried out a two-stage genome-wide association study (GWAS) including 3020 patients with GGEs and 3954 controls of European ancestry. To dissect out syndrome-related variants, we also explored two distinct GGE subgroups comprising 1434 patients with genetic absence epilepsies (GAEs) and 1134 patients with juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME). Joint Stage-1 and 2 analyses revealed genome-wide significant associations for GGEs at 2p16.1 (rs13026414, P(meta) = 2.5 × 10(-9), OR[T] = 0.81) and 17q21.32 (rs72823592, P(meta) = 9.3 × 10(-9), OR[A] = 0.77). The search for syndrome-related susceptibility alleles identified significant associations for GAEs at 2q22.3 (rs10496964, P(meta) = 9.1 × 10(-9), OR[T] = 0.68) and at 1q43 for JME (rs12059546, P(meta) = 4.1 × 10(-8), OR[G] = 1.42). Suggestive evidence for an association with GGEs was found in the region 2q24.3 (rs11890028, P(meta) = 4.0 × 10(-6)) nearby the SCN1A gene, which is currently the gene with the largest number of known epilepsy-related mutations. The associated regions harbor high-ranking candidate genes: CHRM3 at 1q43, VRK2 at 2p16.1, ZEB2 at 2q22.3, SCN1A at 2q24.3 and PNPO at 17q21.32. Further replication efforts are necessary to elucidate whether these positional candidate genes contribute to the heritability of the common GGE syndromes.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Allele, Genome-wide association study, Epilepsy, Myoclonus, Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy


Visibility graph has established itself as a powerful tool for analyzing time series. We in this paper develop a novel multiscale limited penetrable horizontal visibility graph (MLPHVG). We use nonlinear time series from two typical complex systems, i.e., EEG signals and two-phase flow signals, to demonstrate the effectiveness of our method. Combining MLPHVG and support vector machine, we detect epileptic seizures from the EEG signals recorded from healthy subjects and epilepsy patients and the classification accuracy is 100%. In addition, we derive MLPHVGs from oil-water two-phase flow signals and find that the average clustering coefficient at different scales allows faithfully identifying and characterizing three typical oil-water flow patterns. These findings render our MLPHVG method particularly useful for analyzing nonlinear time series from the perspective of multiscale network analysis.

Concepts: Neurology, Epilepsy, Seizure, Myoclonus, Network theory


Medically refractory epilepsy continues to be a challenge worldwide, and despite an increasing number of medical therapies, approximately 1 in 3 patients continues to have seizures. Cannabidiol (CBD), one of many constituents of the Cannabis sativa or marijuana plant, has received renewed interest in the treatment of epilepsy. While highly purified CBD awaits Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, artisanal formulations of CBD are readily available and are seeing increased use in our patient population. Although randomized controlled trials of CBD are ongoing and promising, data regarding artisanal formulations of CBD are minimal and largely anecdotal. Here, we report a retrospective study to define the efficacy of artisanal CBD preparations in children with epilepsy. Given the known interaction between CBD and clobazam, we also conducted a subgroup comparison to determine if clobazam use was related to any beneficial effects of CBD. Additionally, we compared response rates with CBD and with clobazam alone within an overlapping patient cohort. A pediatric cohort with epilepsy of 108 patients was identified through a medical record search for patients using CBD oil. The addition of CBD resulted in 39% of patients having a >50% reduction in seizures, with 10% becoming seizure-free. The responder rate for clobazam was similar. No patients achieved CBD monotherapy, although the weaning of other antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) became possible in 22% of patients. A comparable proportion had AED additions during CBD therapy. With concomitant use of clobazam, 44% of patients had a 50% reduction in seizures upon addition of CBD compared with 33% in the population not taking clobazam; this difference was not statistically significant. The most common reported side effect of CBD was sedation in less than 4% of patients, all of whom were also taking clobazam. Increased alertness and improved verbal interactions were reported in 14% of patients in the CBD group and 8% of patients in the CBD and clobazam group. Benefits were more marked in the CBD alone group, in contrast to the CBD and clobazam group, but this difference was not statistically significant. In summary, these findings support efficacy of artisanal CBD preparations in seizure reduction with few significant side effects. The response to CBD was independent of concurrent clobazam use, although clobazam may contribute to the sedation seen with concurrent CBD use.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Medicine, Randomized controlled trial, Epilepsy, Anticonvulsant, Seizure, Cannabis, Myoclonus


Epilepsy is defined by the seemingly random occurrence of spontaneous seizures. The ability to anticipate seizures would enable preventative treatment strategies. A central but unresolved question concerns the relationship of seizure timing to fluctuating rates of interictal epileptiform discharges (here termed interictal epileptiform activity, IEA), a marker of brain irritability observed between seizures by electroencephalography (EEG). Here, in 37 subjects with an implanted brain stimulation device that detects IEA and seizures over years, we find that IEA oscillates with circadian and subject-specific multidien (multi-day) periods. Multidien periodicities, most commonly 20-30 days in duration, are robust and relatively stable for up to 10 years in men and women. We show that seizures occur preferentially during the rising phase of multidien IEA rhythms. Combining phase information from circadian and multidien IEA rhythms provides a novel biomarker for determining relative seizure risk with a large effect size in most subjects.

Concepts: Neurology, Electroencephalography, Epilepsy, Effect size, Seizure, Myoclonus


Certain visual images, even in the absence of motion or flicker, can trigger seizures in patients with photosensitive epilepsy. As of yet, there is no systematic explanation as to why some static images are likely to provoke seizures, while others pose little or no risk. Here, we examined the neurophysiology literature to assess whether the pattern of neural responses in healthy visual cortex is predictive of the pathological responses in photosensitive epilepsy. Previous studies have suggested that gamma oscillations (30-80 Hz) measured in human visual cortex may play a role in seizure generation [1,2]. Recently, we and others have shown that increases in gamma band power can come from two very different cortical signals, one that is oscillatory (with a narrow peak between 30 Hz and 80 Hz), and another that is broadband[3]. The oscillatory signal arises from neuronal synchrony in the local population, while the broadband signal reflects the level of asynchronous neuronal activity, and is correlated with multiunit spiking [4]. These two responses have different biological origins and different selectivity for image properties. Here, we followed up on the previous proposals [1,2] to ask whether the image features that increase seizure likelihood in photosensitive epilepsy are linked to narrowband gamma oscillations specifically, or are associated with any kind of increase in visual activity. Based on published work, we compared pairs of image classes on a number of dimensions, and show that the type of image that elicits larger narrowband gamma oscillations in healthy visual cortex is also more likely to provoke seizures or pre-seizure activity in patients with photosensitive epilepsy. In contrast, images that elicit larger broadband, multiunit, or fMRI responses are much less predictive of seizure activity. We propose that a risk factor for seizures in patients with photosensitive epilepsy is engagement of the circuitry that produces gamma oscillations.

Concepts: Brain, Electroencephalography, Epilepsy, Seizure, Absence seizure, Myoclonus, Photosensitive epilepsy, Seizure trigger


The notion of a level of consciousness is a key construct in the science of consciousness. Not only is the term employed to describe the global states of consciousness that are associated with post-comatose disorders, epileptic absence seizures, anaesthesia, and sleep, it plays an increasingly influential role in theoretical and methodological contexts. However, it is far from clear what precisely a level of consciousness is supposed to be. This paper argues that the levels-based framework for conceptualizing global states of consciousness is untenable and develops in its place a multidimensional account of global states.

Concepts: Scientific method, Consciousness, Epilepsy, Seizure, Absence seizure, Myoclonus, Unconscious mind, 8-Circuit Model of Consciousness


PURPOSE: Although differences in illness perceptions between neurologists and patients with epilepsy or psychogenic nonepileptic seizures (PNES) are likely to be clinically relevant, this is the first study to attempt a direct comparison. In addition, this study compares the illness perceptions of patients with epilepsy with those of patients with PNES. METHODS: Thirty-four patients with epilepsy, 40 patients with PNES, and 45 neurologists were recruited. All patient participants completed versions of the illness perception questionnaire revised (IPQ-R) adapted for epileptic or nonepileptic seizure disorders, single-item symptom attribution question (SAQ), Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS), Quality of Life in Epilepsy-31 (QOLIE-31), and Liverpool Seizure Severity Scale (LSSS). Participating neurologists completed two versions of the IPQ-R and two SAQs for epileptic and nonepileptic seizure disorders. KEY FINDINGS: Differences in illness perceptions between patients with epilepsy and patients with PNES were minor compared to those between patients with either seizure disorder and neurologists. Neurologists considered both seizure disorders more treatable and more amenable to personal control than did the patients themselves. Neurologists had much more polarized views of the etiology of both conditions; whereas patients mostly considered the causes of their seizure disorders as partially “physical” and partially “psychological,” neurologists perceived epilepsy as an essentially “physical” and PNES as a clearly “psychological” problem. SIGNIFICANCE: There are considerable differences between the illness perceptions of patients with seizure disorders and their doctors, which could represent barriers to successful clinical management. In particular, a discrepancy between neurologists' and patients' beliefs about the personal control that patients may be able to exert over PNES could contribute to the confusion or anger some patients report after the diagnosis has been explained to them. Furthermore, patients' endorsement of “physical” causes for PNES may reflect an unrealistic faith in the effectiveness of “physical” treatments and could be a cause of tension in patients' relationship with their doctor, for instance when the neurologist attempts to withdraw antiepileptic drug treatment or refers patients for psychological interventions.

Concepts: Neurology, Epilepsy, Psychogenic non-epileptic seizures, Anticonvulsant, Seizure, Status epilepticus, Diazepam, Myoclonus


Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy (JME) is often successfully managed with anticonvulsants; however, some patients may have medically resistant seizures. The modified Atkins diet (MAD) has been reported as effective for idiopathic generalized epilepsy and is increasingly being used in adolescents and adults. Since 2006, 8 adolescents and adults have been started on the MAD for JME at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Of these 8 patients, 6 (75%) were female, with a mean age at seizure onset of 10.5years (range: 6-13years) and 24.3years (range: 15-44years) at MAD initiation. After 1month, 6 (75%) patients had >50% seizure reduction, and after 3months, 5 (63%) patients had >50% improvement. Several patients found the MAD difficult to adhere to, including 3 patients who reported temporarily increased seizures during periods of noncompliance. In this limited experience, the modified Atkins diet was an efficacious adjunctive therapy for young adults with very medically resistant JME.

Concepts: Effectiveness, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Epilepsy, Anticonvulsant, Seizure, Myoclonus, Johns Hopkins, Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy


Some patients with idiopathic/genetic generalized epilepsy (IGE) experience visual aura, which can confuse the diagnosis. We sought to determine the frequency and characteristics of visual auras in IGE patients. Among the 176 IGE patients, 4 men and 7 women reported visual auras (mean age - 24years). Syndromic diagnoses were juvenile myoclonic epilepsy in four, eyelid myoclonia with absences (EMA) in three, juvenile absence epilepsy in three, and other in one. Visual auras consisted of flashing lights, macropsia, illusional movements, and blindness. Eyelid myoclonia with absences was significantly more common in the group with visual aura (3 of 11 patients vs. 8 of 165 IGE patients; P=0.02). Furthermore, photosensitivity was found significantly more common in IGE patients with visual aura (90% vs 46% of the total IGE patients) (P=0.004). In conclusion, the visual auras do not exclude a diagnosis of IGE. The presence of visual aura in the EMA syndrome is also remarkable.

Concepts: Medical terms, Epilepsy, Seizure, Absence seizure, Myoclonus, Neurological disorders, Childhood absence epilepsy, Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy


Contraceptive management is critical in women with epilepsy. Although oral contraceptives (OCs) are widely used by many women with epilepsy, little is known about their impact on epileptic seizures and epileptogenesis. Ethinyl estradiol (EE) is the primary component of OC pills. In this study, we investigated the pharmacological effect of EE on epileptogenesis and kindled seizures in female mice using the hippocampus kindling model. Animals were stimulated daily with or without EE until generalized stage 5 seizures were elicited. EE treatment significantly accelerated the rate of epileptogenesis. In acute studies, EE caused a significant decrease in the afterdischarge threshold and increased the incidence and severity of seizures in fully-kindled mice. In chronic studies, EE treatment caused a greater susceptibility to kindled seizures. Collectively, these results are consistent with moderate proconvulsant-like activity of EE. Such excitatory effects may affect seizure risk in women with epilepsy taking OC pills.

Concepts: Combined oral contraceptive pill, Neurology, Epilepsy, Seizure, Myoclonus, Post-traumatic epilepsy, Epileptogenesis, Kindling model