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Epilepsy Behav. 2009 Aug;15(4):404-12. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2009.06.007. Epub 2009 Jul 24.

Absence seizures: a review of recent reports with new concepts.

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Department of Neurology, University of Illinois Medical Center (M/C 796), 912 South Wood Street, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Absence seizures with bilateral spike-wave (SW) complexes at 3Hz are divided into the childhood form, with onset at around 6 years of age, and the juvenile form, with onset usually at 12 years of age. These seizures typically last 9-12s and, at times, are activated by hyperventilation and occasionally by photic stimulation. Generalized tonic-clonic (GTC) seizures may also occur, especially in the juvenile form. There may be cognitive changes, in addition to linguistic and behavioral problems. Possible mechanisms for epileptogenesis may involve GABAergic systems, but especially T-calcium channels. The thalamus, especially the reticular nucleus, plays a major role, as does the frontal cortex, mainly the dorsolateral and orbital frontal areas, to the extent that some investigators have concluded that absence seizures are not truly generalized, but rather have selective cortical networks, mainly ventromesial frontal areas and the somatosensory cortex. The latter network is a departure from the more popular concept of a generalized epilepsy. Between the "centrencephalic" and "corticoreticular" theories, a "unified" theory is presented. Proposed genes include T-calcium channel gene CACNA1H, likely a susceptible gene in the Chinese Han population and a contributory gene in Caucasians. Electroencephalography has revealed an interictal increase in prefrontal activity, essential for the buildup of the ictal SW complexes maximal in that region. Infraslow activity can also be seen during ictal SW complexes. For treatment, counter to common belief, ethosuximide may not increase GTC seizures, as it reduces low-threshold T-calcium currents in thalamic neurons. Valproic acid and lamotrigine are also first-line medications. In addition, zonisamide and levetiracetam can be very helpful in absence epilepsy.

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