July 23, 2020

Epilepsy Research News: July 2020

This month’s epilepsy news includes a recent study that documents the potential risk of suicide in people with epilepsy who experience hallucinations and what treating physicians can do to intervene. Another important study for clinicians and families to be aware of suggests that there may be an increased risk of death among Alzheimer’s patients who take antiepileptic drugs (AEDs).

In FDA news, Fintepla® (fenfluramine) was approved for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome in patients age 2 and older. While this is exciting news, we recommend that families considering this treatment option review the full FDA statement first.

Lastly, highlights from two interesting studies are presented. The first suggests an unexpected therapeutic effect of listening to Mozart’s piano compositions in people with epilepsy. The second details the development of a novel noninvasive method of mapping seizure foci in preparation for epilepsy surgery.

Summaries of these research discoveries and news highlights are below.

Research News

  • Hallucinations and Suicide Risk: Approximately 8% of people with epilepsy experience hallucinations unrelated to their seizures. This study showed that 65% of these individuals had a diagnosable mental illness and 53% had attempted suicide at least once. The data suggest that hallucinations are critical markers of suicide risk and emphasize the importance of clinicians routinely asking about hallucinations and assessing the mental state of their patients with epilepsy. Learn more
  • Alzheimer’s Disease and Antiepileptic Drugs: A Finnish study suggests that use of AEDs increases the rate of death among those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. According to this study, older AEDs increase the probability of death compared to more recently developed ones. Although researchers cautioned that the reasons for prescribing the AED could partly explain the data, they also stressed the need for close monitoring of adverse effects. Learn more
  • New Therapy for Dravet Syndrome Approved: The FDA recently approved Zogenix’s Fintepla® (fenfluramine) for the treatment of seizures associated with Dravet syndrome in patients older than 2 years of age. Individuals who are prescribed this drug do need to undergo cardiac monitoring, due to the risk of two specific cardiac concerns. Learn more
  • The Magic of Mozart: An intriguing yet preliminary study found that daily listening to one of Mozart’s piano sonatas reduced the frequency of seizures in people with epilepsy. Importantly, nothing else was changed, including the dosage of their AEDs. While these results are promising, the next step is to conduct larger studies with more patients over a longer period of time. Learn more
  • Epilepsy Surgery: A recently described approach to finding the area in the brain responsible for a person’s seizures does not require invasive brain surgery, but instead combines artificial intelligence and 76 scalp electrodes. This method has been shown to be just as effective at pinpointing the location and extent of the seizure source as implanted electrodes. Learn more

National funding for epilepsy research is in jeopardy. Scientists are facing extreme challenges due to COVID-19 and its impact on funding. Critically important research hangs in the balance. Donate today to support continued scientific progress aiming to create a world without epilepsy.

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