Epilepsy is a chronic brain disorder that affects more than 50 million people worldwide. Epileptic seizures are caused by abnormal brain cell activity. They can strike at any age and produce a variety of behaviors — from a blank stare to a full body convulsion — depending on the brain region affected. While some types of epilepsy are caused by mutated genes, others result from brain injury or disease. By studying people living with epilepsy, scientists hope to develop new therapies to limit or prevent seizures.
Scientific advances are pointing researchers to new ideas about how to reduce the side effects of epilepsy medications and improve therapy options for those resistant to current medications. Ongoing studies in animals and people are also illuminating the subtle changes that take place in the brain shortly before seizures begin. This insight could one day lead to new devices that predict seizure onset and interrupt abnormal brain cell activity, preventing seizures from starting.