November 8, 2022

Seizures Happen Like Clockwork — But Depend on the Clock

Article published by Rice University

For many who suffer from epilepsy, seizures come like clockwork. But everyone has a different clock. A new study co-led by Rice University and the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) researchers sought to formalize how those clocks tick to give people with epilepsy a better idea of how and why their seizures happen, and perhaps to better recognize the early warnings.

In the process, the project led by Rice alumna Sharon Chiang, a clinical instructor and research fellow at UCSF, and her mentor Marina Vannucci, the Noah Harding Professor of Statistics at Rice’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, established that aging itself, as well as common triggers, may be contributing factors to how the disease affects those prone to seizures.

Their study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We developed a new statistical model to explicitly capture the effect of factors that may drive transitions in seizure risk,” Chiang said. “We looked at anti-seizure medications and different triggers like illness and menstrual cycles. Those are some of the factors commonly thought to increase or decrease seizure risk.

“The relationship of cycle length to age was an interesting finding,” she said. “We’re able to see there are shorter cycles in older age groups and then longer cycles in younger age groups. A shortening of cycle length with age may have potential ramifications in future clinical practice.”