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Autosomal Dominant Nocturnal Frontal Lobe Epilepsy.


GeneReviews® [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993-2018.
2002 May 16 [updated 2015 Feb 19].

Author information

Aichi Medical University, Nagakute, Japan
Fukuoka University, Fukuoka, Japan



Autosomal dominant nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy (ADNFLE) is characterized by clusters of nocturnal motor seizures, which are often stereotyped and brief (5 seconds to 5 minutes). They vary from simple arousals from sleep to dramatic, often bizarre, hyperkinetic events with tonic or dystonic features. Affected individuals may experience aura. Retained awareness during seizures is common. A minority of individuals experience daytime seizures. Onset ranges from infancy to adulthood. About 80% of individuals develop ADNFLE in the first two decades of life; mean age of onset is ten years. Clinical neurologic examination is normal and intellect is usually preserved, but reduced intellect, psychiatric comorbidity, or cognitive deficits may occur. Within a family, the manifestations of the disorder may vary considerably. ADNFLE is lifelong but not progressive. As an individual reaches middle age, attacks may become milder and less frequent.


The diagnosis of ADNFLE is made on clinical grounds. A detailed history from the affected individual and witnesses, supplemented if necessary by video-EEG monitoring, are the key to diagnosis. Molecular genetic testing reveals pathogenic variants in CHRNA4, CHRNB2, CHRNA2, KCNT1, DEPDC5, or CRH in approximately 20% of individuals with a positive family history and fewer than 5% of individuals with a negative family history.


Treatment of manifestations: Carbamazepine is associated with remission in about 70% of individuals, often in relatively low doses. Individuals with ADNFLE associated with the CHRNA4 pathogenic variant p.Ser284Leu are more responsive to zonisamide than carbamazepine. Resistance to AEDs, present in about 30% of affected individuals, requires a trial of all appropriate AEDs. Vagal nerve stimulation may be considered for individuals resistant to AEDs. Surveillance: Reevaluation of EEGs at regular intervals to monitor disease progression. Evaluation of relatives at risk: A medical history from relatives at risk can identify those with ADNFLE so that treatment can be initiated promptly.


ADNFLE is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. Most individuals diagnosed with ADNFLE have an affected parent. The proportion of cases caused by de novo pathogenic variants is unknown, as the frequency of subtle signs of the disorder in parents has not been thoroughly evaluated and molecular genetic data are insufficient. Penetrance is estimated at 70% and the risk to each offspring of inheriting the pathogenic variant is 50%; thus, the chance that the offspring will manifest ADNFLE is (50% x 70%) 35%. Prenatal testing for pregnancies at increased risk is possible.

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