[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT:
The aim of this report is not to make a differential diagnosis between epileptic nocturnal seizures and non-epileptic sleep-related movement disorders, or parasomnias. On the contrary, our goal is to emphasize the commonly shared semiological features of some epileptic seizures and parasomnias. Such similar features might be explained by the activation of the same neuronal networks (so-called 'central pattern generators' or CPG). These produce the stereotypical rhythmic motor sequences - in other words, behaviours - that are adaptive and species-specific (such as eating/alimentary, attractive/aversive, locomotor and nesting habits). CPG are located at the subcortical level (mainly in the brain stem and spinal cord) and, in humans, are under the control of the phylogenetically more recent neomammalian neocortical structures, according to a simplified Jacksonian model. Based on video-polygraphic recordings of sleep-related epileptic seizures and non-epileptic events (parasomnias), we have documented how a transient "neomammalian brain" dysfunction - whether epileptic or not - can 'release' (disinhibition?) the CPG responsible for involuntary motor behaviours. Thus, in both epileptic seizures and parasomnias, we can observe: (a) oroalimentary automatisms, bruxism and biting; (b) ambulatory behaviours, ranging from the classical bimanual-bipedal activity of 'frontal' hypermotor seizures, epileptic and non-epileptic wanderings, and somnambulism to periodic leg movements (PLM), alternating leg muscle activation (ALMA) and restless legs syndrome (RLS); and (c) various sleep-related events such as ictal fear, sleep terrors, nightmares and violent behaviour.