Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers find possible biomarker to identify seizure-related stress

Findings may lead to a better understanding of the pathology of conversion disorders

New research from Rhode Island Hospital found that reduced levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein in the brain that encourages growth of neurons, may be a trait marker for individuals with psychogenic non-epileptic seizures (PNES) (seizures that are psychological in origin). The findings are published in the October 4, 2010, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Past studies have shown decreased levels of BDNF in the serum of patients with psychiatric disorders such as major depressive disorder and conversion disorders (a condition in which a patient displays neurological symptoms such as numbness or seizures when no neurological lesion or pathology is found). Children with epilepsy have been found to have increased levels of BDNF compared to healthy controls. Serum BDNF levels, however, have not been investigated in adult patients with epileptic seizures (ES). With this in mind, researchers from Rhode Island Hospital hypothesized that BDNF would differentiate between ES and PNES.

W. Curt LaFrance, Jr., MD, MPH, director of neuropsychiatry and behavioral neurology at Rhode Island Hospital, and assistant professor of psychiatry and neurology (research) at The Alpert Medical School of Brown University led the study of three groups of patients -- one group with confirmed PNES, one group with ES and one healthy control group. The patients were also screened for comorbid depression as well, as past studies have suggested that chronic antidepressant use increases serum BDNF in patients with depression. More than half (8 of 13) of the patients in the PNES group were diagnosed with mild depression and were taking psychotropic (antidepressant) medication.

LaFrance and his fellow colleagues from Brown University found decreased levels of serum BDNF in both the PNES and ES groups when compared to the healthy control group. They believe these findings are significant in that it would be expected that the PNES patients taking antidepressant medications would have an increased level of serum BDNF. There were no significant differences in the levels of serum BDNF among all the patients in the PNES group, whether they were taking antidepressants or not. As a result, they believe that the reduced levels of BDNF may be a biomarker for PNES.

LaFrance says, "While BDNF may play a similar role in the pathophysiology of depression and PNES, the differential response of serum BDNF to antidepressants in patients with psychogenic nonepileptic seizures could highlight an important difference. The fact that antidepressants did not increase serum BDNF levels in our study and that there were no BDNF differences between patients with PNES who were depressed and those who did not have depression would suggest that serum BDNF might represent a trait marker of PNES. This could potentially be useful in understanding the pathophysiology of conversion disorders."

The study also found decreased levels of BDNF in adult patients with epileptic seizures, unlike the elevated levels found in children with ES. LaFrance comments, "This result is unexpected given the findings of elevated serum BDNF levels in children and the studies investigating BDNF concentrations in adult patients with ES."

LaFrance noted, "A model that may provide a unifying hypothesis on the decreased serum BDNF findings in both seizure groups may not be related to seizures -- it may be related to stress. Stress has been shown to lower BDNF, and a shared characteristic of patients with epilepsy or with nonepileptic seizures is fear of the next seizure. There may be great potential for biomarkers for PNES and for treatment response." Based on these findings, LaFrance and his colleagues propose that additional studies of BDNF levels take place to provide further insight into the role of BDNF in seizure disorders.

The study was funded by grants from Brown University and the Matthew Siravo Memorial Foundation. Other researchers involved in the study with LaFrance include, Edward Stopa, MD, and Andrew Blum, MD, PhD, of Rhode Island Hospital and The Alpert Medical School, and Katherine Leaver, BS, and George D. Papandonatos, PhD, of Brown University.

Founded in 1863, Rhode Island Hospital ( in Providence, RI, is a private, not-for-profit hospital and is the largest teaching hospital of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. A major trauma center for southeastern New England, the hospital is dedicated to being on the cutting edge of medicine and research. The hospital receives nearly $50 million each year in external research funding and is home to Hasbro Children's Hospital, the state's only facility dedicated to pediatric care. It is a founding member of the Lifespan health system.

Nancy Cawley Jean | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Aquaculture: Clear Water Thanks to Cork
28.10.2016 | Technologie Lizenz-Büro (TLB) der Baden-Württembergischen Hochschulen GmbH

nachricht Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark
28.10.2016 | Vanderbilt University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel light sources made of 2D materials

Physicists from the University of Würzburg have designed a light source that emits photon pairs. Two-photon sources are particularly well suited for tap-proof data encryption. The experiment's key ingredients: a semiconductor crystal and some sticky tape.

So-called monolayers are at the heart of the research activities. These "super materials" (as the prestigious science magazine "Nature" puts it) have been...

Im Focus: Etching Microstructures with Lasers

Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.

This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...

Im Focus: Light-driven atomic rotations excite magnetic waves

Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion

Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Steering a fusion plasma toward stability

28.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Bioluminescent sensor causes brain cells to glow in the dark

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

Activation of 2 genes linked to development of atherosclerosis

28.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>