How Can Computer Modelling Help in Understanding the Dynamics of Absence Epilepsy?
An overview of the pathophysiology of absence seizures is given, focusing on computational modelling where recent neurophysiological experimental evidence is incorporated. The main question addressed is what is the dynamical process by which the same brain can produce sustained bursts of synchronous spike-and-wave discharges (SWDs) and normal, largely desynchronized brain activity, i.e. to display bistability. This generic concept, tested on an updated neural mass computational model of absence seizures, predicts certain properties of the probability distributions of inter-ictal intervals and of the durations of ictal events. A critical analysis of the distributions predicted by the model and those found in reality led to adjustments of the model with respect to the control of the duration of ictal events. Another prediction derived from the bistable dynamics, the possibility of aborting absence seizures by means of counter-controlled electrical stimulation, is also discussed in the light of current experimental studies. Finally the most recent update of the model was carried out to account for the particular properties of the cortical “driver” of SWDs, and the underlying putative role of the persistent Na+ current of cortical neurons in this process.
KeywordsGeneralized epilepsies Absence seizures Neural mass models Dynamical neural systems Bistability Inter-ictal and ictal distributions Counter-stimulation Ih current Na-persistent current
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