February 5, 2019

Strong Relationship Between NREM Sleep, Epilepsy and Plastic Functions – A Conceptual Review on the Neurophysiology Background

The aim of this review is to summarize and discuss the strong bond between NREM sleep and epilepsy underlain by the shared link and effect on brain plasticity.

Beyond the seizure occurrence rate, sleep relatedness may manifest in the enhancement of interictal epileptic discharges (spikes and pathological ripples). The number of the discharges as well as their propagation increase during NREM sleep, unmasking the epileptic network hidden during wakefulness. The interictal epileptic discharges associate with different sleep constituents (sleep slow waves, spindling and high frequency oscillations); known to play essential role in memory and learning.

Researchers highlight three major groups of epilepsies, in which sleep-related plastic functions suffer an epileptic derailment. In absence epilepsy, mainly involving the thalamo-cortical system, sleep spindles transform to generalized spike-wave activity. In mesio-temporal epilepsy affecting the hippocampal declarative memory system, the sharp wave ripples derail to dysfunctional epileptic oscillations (spikes and pathological ripples). Idiopathic childhood epilepsies affecting the perisylvian network may progress to catastrophic status electricus during NREM sleep.

In these major epilepsies, NREM sleep has a pivotal role in the development and course of the disorder. Epilepsy is born in-, and exhibits its pathological properties during NREM sleep. Interictal discharges are important causative agents in this process.

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