Are there really "epileptogenic" Mechanisms or only corruptions of "normal" Plasticity?

Giuliano Avanzini, Patrick A. Forcelli, Karen Gale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Plasticity in the nervous system, whether for establishing connections and networks during development, repairing networks after injury, or modifying connections based on experience, relies primarily on highly coordinated patterns of neural activity. Rhythmic, synchronized bursting of neuronal ensembles is a fundamental component of the activity-dependent plasticity responsible for the wiring and rewiring of neural circuits in the CNS. It is therefore not surprising that the architecture of the CNS supports the generation of highly synchronized bursts of neuronal activity in non-pathological conditions, even though the activity resembles the ictal and interictal events that are the hallmark symptoms of epilepsy. To prevent such natural epileptiform events from becoming pathological, multiple layers of homeostatic control operate on cellular and network levels. Many data on plastic changes that occur in different brain structures during the processes by which the epileptogenic aggregate is constituted have been accumulated but their role in counteracting or promoting such processes is still controversial. In this chapter we will review experimental and clinical evidence on the role of neural plasticity in the development of epilepsy. We will address questions such as: is epilepsy a progressive disorder? What do we know about mechanism(s) accounting for progression? Have we reliable biomarkers of epilepsy-related plastic processes? Do seizure-associated plastic changes protect against injury and aid in recovery? As a necessary premise we will consider the value of seizure-like activity in the context of normal neural development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-107
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
Publication statusPublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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