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J Alzheimers Dis. 2017;60(4):1267-1274. doi: 10.3233/JAD-170392.

Adult-Onset Epilepsy in Presymptomatic Alzheimer's Disease: A Retrospective Study.

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Department of Neurology, San Gerardo Hospital, Monza, Italy.
School of Medicine and Surgery and Milan Center for Neuroscience (NeuroMi), University of Milano-Bicocca, Monza, Italy.
Department of Neuroscience, IRCCS-Institute for Pharmacological Research "Mario Negri", Milan, Italy.



The prevalence of epilepsy with onset in adulthood increases with age, mainly due to the accumulation of brain damage. However, a significant proportion of patients experience seizures of unknown cause. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with an increased risk of seizures. Seizure activity is interpreted as a secondary event related to hyperexcitability caused by amyloid-β aggregation.


Since neurodegenerative processes begin several years before clinical symptoms, epilepsy could be more frequent in the presymptomatic stages of dementia.


We retrospectively reviewed the prevalence of epilepsy of unknown origin with adult onset before cognitive decline in a large cohort of AD patients (EPS-AD) recruited based on clinical and neuropsychological data. Data of patients with epilepsy followed by AD were compared with two control groups: patients with AD without seizures (no EPS-AD) and a large reference population (RP).


In AD patients, the prevalence of epilepsy of unknown origin, with onset in the adulthood before cognitive decline is 17.1 times higher compared with the RP (95% CI: 10.3-28.3). In EPS-AD, seizures begin on average 4.6 years (median 2.0) before the onset of cognitive symptoms and cognitive decline starts 3.6 years earlier compared with noEPS-AD.


Neurodegenerative processes of dementia could play a key role in the pathogenesis of epilepsy in a subgroup of individuals intended to develop cognitive decline. Adult-onset epilepsy of undefined cause could thus represent a risk factor for the ongoing neurodegenerative damage, even preceding by years the onset of clinical symptoms of dementia.


Alzheimer’s disease; disease modifying therapies; epilepsy; neurodegeneration; prevalence; seizure

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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