What is Epilepsy?
Epilepsy is a serious neurological condition that affects almost 1% of the population at some period during their lives. It is characterised by the tendency to have recurrent, spontaneous, seizures. Seizures can be caused by several different mechanisms and originate in and propagate to various different locations in the brain. In line with this, epilepsy should not be understood as a single disorder, but rather as a collection of conditions manifesting from underlying abnormalities in dynamic brain networks.
People with epilepsy are typically treated with anti-epilepsy drugs (AEDs), with the aim of reducing the number of seizures to zero. Often seizure remission is only achieved by finding a combination of several AEDs through a “trial-and-error” process, which may take a long period of time. For those who are unresponsive to medication, clinicians may consider alternative options, such as neuro-stimulation, gene therapy, even surgery.
Seizures are episodes of abnormal neural activity resulting in a variety of cognitive and behavioural symptoms. These can include the disruption of somatosensory, auditory, visual and motor function, loss of consciousness, and problems with perception, emotion, memory, speech or behaviour. They can last from several seconds up to several minutes. Seizures longer than 5 minutes are classified as ‘status epilepticus’, which is a very dangerous condition.