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Pediatr Neurol. 2012 Dec;47(6):390-410. doi: 10.1016/j.pediatrneurol.2012.06.016.

Electrical status epilepticus in sleep: clinical presentation and pathophysiology.

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Division of Epilepsy and Clinical Neurophysiology, Department of Neurology, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Electrical status epilepticus in sleep involves an electroencephalographic pattern where interictal epileptiform activity is potentiated in the transition from wakefulness to sleep. Near-continuous spikes and waves that occupy a significant proportion of nonrapid eye movement sleep appear as a result of sleep-potentiated epileptiform activity. This electroencephalographic pattern appears in different electroclinical syndromes that present three common characteristics with different degrees of severity: seizures, sleep-potentiated epileptiform activity, and neuropsychologic regression. Continuous spikes and waves during sleep comprise the severest epileptic encephalopathy in the electroclinical spectrum. Landau-Kleffner syndrome presents with intermediate severity. Some "benign" pediatric focal epileptic syndromes represent the mildest end of this continuum. Based on published data, we provide a framework for clinical and electrical events. The underlying mechanisms leading to sleep potentiation of epileptiform activity in electrical status epilepticus in sleep are incompletely understood. A genetic basis or acquired early developmental insult may disrupt the normal maturation of neuronal networks. These factors may dynamically alter normal processes of brain development, leading to an age-related pattern of electroclinical expression of electrical status epilepticus in sleep.

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