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Epilepsy Res. 2004 Dec;62(2-3):99-118.

Role of neurosteroids in catamenial epilepsy.

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  • Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences, North Carolina State University, College of Veterinary Medicine, 4700 Hillsborough Street, Raleigh, NC 27606, USA. samba_reddy@ncsu.edu


Catamenial epilepsy is a menstrual cycle-related seizure disorder that affects up to 70% of women with epilepsy. Catamenial epilepsy is characterized by an increase in seizures during particular phases of the menstrual cycle. Three distinct patterns of catamenial epilepsy - perimenstrual, periovulatory, and inadequate luteal phase - have been described. Currently, there is no specific treatment for catamenial epilepsy. The molecular mechanisms involved in the pathophysiology of catamenial epilepsy are not well understood. Recent studies suggest that cyclical changes of ovarian hormones estrogens (proconvulsant) and progesterone (anticonvulsant) appear to play a key role in the genesis of catamenial seizures. Progesterone reduces seizure susceptibility partly through conversion to neurosteroids such as allopregnanolone, which enhances GABA(A) receptor function and thereby inhibits neuronal excitability. In animal models, withdrawal from chronic progesterone and, consequently, of allopregnanolone levels in brain, has been shown to increase seizure susceptibility. Natural progesterone therapy has proven effective in women with epilepsy. Moreover, neurosteroids have been shown to be very effective inhibitors of catamenial seizures in animal models. Thus, synthetic neuroactive steroids, such as ganaxolone, which are orally active and devoid of hormonal side effects, represent a novel treatment strategy for catamenial epilepsy. However, their clinical efficacy in catamenial epilepsy has yet to be explored. A greater understanding of the molecular mechanisms is clearly needed for designing effective treatment and prevention strategies of catamenial epilepsy in women at risk.

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