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Epilepsy Behav. 2008 Oct;13(3):511-22. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2008.05.007. Epub 2008 Jun 24.

An open hypothesis: is epilepsy learned, and can it be unlearned?

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Department of Neurology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53792, USA.


Plasticity is central to the ability of a neural system to learn and also to its ability to develop spontaneous seizures. What is the connection between the two? Learning itself is known to be a destabilizing process at the algorithmic level. We have investigated necessary constraints on a spontaneously active Hebbian learning system and find that the ability to learn appears to confer an intrinsic vulnerability to epileptogenesis on that system. We hypothesize that epilepsy arises as an abnormal learned response of such a system to certain repeated provocations. This response is a network-level effect. If epilepsy really is a learned response, then it should be possible to reverse it, that is, to unlearn epilepsy. Unlearning epilepsy may then provide a new approach to its treatment.

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