Clinical Neuroscience

[New vistas and views in the concept of generalized epilepsies]

HALÁSZ Péter, KELEMEN Anna

NOVEMBER 30, 2009

Clinical Neuroscience - 2009;62(11-12)

[The aim of this work is to show explicitly why the “idiopathic generalized epilepsy” concept becomes outfashioned and untenable. As the concept of “generalized epilepsies” is from long ago closely related to the thalamo-cortical system, we briefly summarize the functional anatomy, the double working mode of the thalamo-cortical system in different vigilance states and it’s role in development of the spike - wave pattern. The next part shows weaknesses of this concept from the EEG, seizure semiology, and neuroimaging point of view. Further experimental and clinical arguments are accumulated from the reflex epileptic features in IGE, indicating local/regional cortical hyperexcitability. A separate part is devoted to genetic aspects of the question. Lastly implications to epilepsy classification are shown and an outlook toward a unified epilepsy concept is provided. The epileptic disorder of the thalamo-cortical system is responsible for the development of “generalized", synchronous spike-wave paroxysms as the common neurophysiological background in “primary” - idiopathic and in “secondary” generalized epilepsies. This disorder is specifically related to the burstfiring working mode of the thalamo-cortical system during NREM sleep (is an epileptic exageration of it). The “generalized” epilepsy category should be abandoned, being misleading. Epilepsies are proposed to be classified according to their network properties and relations to different physiological systems of the brain. The different phenotypes, named earlier idiopathic (primary) generalized, or symptomatic (secondary) generalized (with encephalopathic features), should be delineated depending on the following factors: 1. speed and extent of syncronization within the thalamo-cortical system, 2. the way how the thalamo-cortical system is involved, 3. which kind of cortical triggers play role, 4. the degree and level of the disorder (restricted to the molecular level or extended to the level of structural alterations - in the cortex or more diffusely, 5. genetic targets and features.]

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