One in 10 people will experience a seizure at some point during their lifetimes. Epilepsy, a pattern of recurrent seizures, affects about one in 26 of us.
Absence. or petit-mal, seizures -- the form that epilepsy usually takes among children ages 6-15 -- feature a sudden loss of consciousness lasting 15 seconds or less. These seizures can be so subtle that they aren't noticed, or are mistaken for lack of attention. The patient remains still for several seconds as if frozen in place. . . Inside the brain, however, things more resemble an electrical storm than a freeze-frame.
What, precisely, triggers these "electrical storms in the brain" is yet to be worked out, but the study's senior author, Stanford's John Huguenard, PhD, thinks he may have an idea: Huguenard's group is onto a possible mechanism for, at least, one kind of seizure's onset. They've mapped the circuitry involved and are now in a position to start figuring out exactly what kinds of ordinary, everyday sensory experiences trigger absence seizures, and why.