Shared cognitive and behavioral impairments in epilepsy and Alzheimer's disease and potential underlying mechanisms
Seizures in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) have been examined by many investigators over the last several decades, and there are diverse opinions about their potential relevance to AD pathophysiology. Some studies suggest that seizures appear to be a fairly uncommon co-morbidity, whereas other studies report a higher incidence of seizures in patients with AD. It was previously thought that seizures play a minor role in AD pathophysiology because of their low frequency, and also because they may only be noticed during late stages of AD, suggesting that seizures are likely to be a consequence of neurodegeneration rather than a contributing factor. However, clinical reports indicate that seizures can occur early in the emergence of AD symptoms, particularly in familial AD. In this case, seizures may be an integral part of the emerging pathophysiology. This view has been supported by evidence of recurrent spontaneous seizures in transgenic mouse models of AD in which familial AD is simulated. Additional data from transgenic animals suggest that there may be a much closer relationship between seizures and AD than previously considered. There is also evidence that seizures facilitate production of amyloid β (Aβ) and can cause impairments in cognition and behavior in both animals and humans. However, whether seizures play a role in the early stages of AD pathogenesis is still debated. Therefore, it is timely to review the similarities and differences between AD and epilepsy, as well as data suggesting that seizures may contribute to cognitive and behavioral dysfunction in AD. Here we focus on AD and temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), a particular type of epilepsy that involves the temporal lobe, a region that influences behavior and is critical to memory. We also consider potential neurobiological mechanisms that support the view that the causes of seizures in TLE may be related to the causes of cognitive dysfunction in AD. We suggest that similar underlying mechanisms may exist for at least some of the aspects of AD that are also found in TLE. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "Translational Epilepsy Research".
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