A major mystery in epilepsy research has been why infants are more prone to seizures than adults and how those seizures progress to chronic epilepsy. Now, researchers have discovered that central to those seizures in the developing brain are neurons triggered by the neurotransmitter GABA. They say their findings could lead to new ways to treat seizures in newborns. Also, they say, their findings suggest that the use of drugs that enhance GABA action may be particularly harmful to the newborn brain.
In adults, epilepsy is caused by hyperactivation of neuronal receptors triggered by the neurotransmitter glutamate. This excess activation unleashes the storm of uncontrolled nerve cell firing that underlies epilepsy. In contrast, in adults the neurotransmitter GABA acts on its receptors to inhibit neurons. Loss of this inhibition is also involved in epilepsy.
Neurotransmitters such as glutamate and GABA are chemical signals that one neuron launches at its neighbor across connections called synapses.
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