April 19, 2022

Review: Status Epilepticus and Early Development: Neuronal Injury, Neurodegeneration, and Their Consequences

Abstract found in Wiley Online Library

Evidence showing that the immature brain is vulnerable to seizure-induced damage has been accumulating for decades. Clinical data have always suggested that some early life seizures are associated with negative sequellae, but clinical observations are frequently obscured by multiple uncontrolled contributing factors and can rarely establish causality. Determining with certainty that seizures, per se, can cause neuronal death, and can irreversibly disrupt critical developmental processes, required the development of suitable model systems. Several experimental seizure models clearly show that the immature brain can sustain neuronal injury as a result of uncontrolled seizure activity, and that even in the absence of observable neuronal death, the developing brain is selectively vulnerable to interruptions of required growth programs. Severe early-life seizures inhibit DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis, and they can reduce the accumulation of myelin and synaptic markers in the developing nervous system, leading to functional delays in development. Depending on the seizure pathway involved, and the developmental period under study, classic neurodegeneration, excitotoxicity and apoptosis, can result in permanent damage to critical neural networks in the temporal lobe and in many other brain regions. This conclusion is further supported by recent clinical studies showing that prolonged febrile status epilepticus can lead to hippocampal injury, which evolves into hippocampal atrophy and hippocampal sclerosis. A growing body of experimental data demonstrates that the metabolic compromise and cellular loss produced by seizures during critical phases of brain development, negatively affect later hippocampal physiology including learning and memory functions in maturity.