Epilepsy Leads to More Brain Abnormalities Over Time

Scans show increasing anatomical changes in the brains of people with epilepsy as they age

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TUESDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- Aging accelerates brain-structure abnormalities in people with childhood-onset temporal-lobe epilepsy, a new study says.

Temporal-lobe epilepsy is the most common type of partial epilepsy, with about 60 percent of all epilepsy patients having this form of the disease.

Previous research suggests that people with childhood-onset epilepsy have significant mental and developmental problems that continue into adulthood, particularly in those who don't respond to seizure medications.

Prior studies also have found that patients with temporal-lobe epilepsy have structural abnormalities in many areas of the brain. But there is limited knowledge about how aging affects these abnormalities.

In the study, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison used MRI to examine the brains of 55 patients with chronic temporal-lobe epilepsy and 53 people without epilepsy. The participants were aged 14 to 60.

The brain scans revealed that the epilepsy patients had more brain-structure abnormalities than healthy people, and that these abnormalities were more extensive in older epilepsy patients.

"Patients with epilepsy are burdened with significant neurodevelopmental challenges due to these cumulative brain abnormalities," Bruce Hermann, professor of neuropsychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said in a news release. "The consequences of these anatomical changes for epilepsy patients as they progress into elder years remain unknown, and further study of the adverse effects in those of older chronological age is needed."

The study appears in the journal Epilepsia.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about epilepsy.

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