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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2013 Nov 19;110(47):19107-12. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1318894110. Epub 2013 Nov 4.

Epileptic baboons have lower numbers of neurons in specific areas of cortex.

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Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37240.


Epilepsy is characterized by recurrent seizure activity that can induce pathological reorganization and alter normal function in neocortical networks. In the present study, we determined the numbers of cells and neurons across the complete extent of the cortex for two epileptic baboons with naturally occurring seizures and two baboons without epilepsy. Overall, the two epileptic baboons had a 37% average reduction in the number of cortical neurons compared with the two nonepileptic baboons. The loss of neurons was variable across cortical areas, with the most pronounced loss in the primary motor cortex, especially in lateral primary motor cortex, representing the hand and face. Less-pronounced reductions of neurons were found in other parts of the frontal cortex and in somatosensory cortex, but no reduction was apparent in the primary visual cortex and little in other visual areas. The results provide clear evidence that epilepsy in the baboon is associated with considerable reduction in the numbers of cortical neurons, especially in frontal areas of the cortex related to motor functions. Whether or not the reduction of neurons is a cause or an effect of seizures needs further investigation.


neuronal density; plasticity; primates

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