Myoclonus and seizures in progressive myoclonus epilepsies: pharmacology and therapeutic trials

Roberto Michelucci, Elena Pasini, Patrizia Riguzzi, Eva Andermann, Reetta Kälviäinen, Pierre Genton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Generalized motor seizures, usually tonic-clonic, tonic-vibratory, myoclonic or clonic, and stimulus-sensitive/action myoclonus are typical features of progressive myoclonus epilepsies (PMEs). Despite the introduction of many anticonvulsants, the treatment of these symptoms, particularly myoclonus, remains challenging, due to the incomplete and often transitory effects of most drugs. Moreover, treatment is only symptomatic, since therapy targeting the underlying aetiology for these genetic conditions is in its infancy. Traditional antiepileptic drugs for the treatment of PMEs are valproate, clonazepam, and phenobarbital (or primidone). These drugs may improve the overall performance of PME patients by decreasing their generalized seizures and, to a lesser extent, their myoclonic jerks. Newer drugs which have been shown to be effective include piracetam, levetiracetam, topiramate, zonisamide, and possibly perampanel for Lafora disease. The potential of other drugs (such as L-triptophan and N-acetylcysteine) and procedures (such as vagal and deep brain stimulation) has also been discussed. The available data on the efficacy of drugs are mainly based on small series or anecdotal reports. Two prospective, randomized, double blind studies investigating the novel SV2A ligand, brivaracetam, in genetically confirmed Unverricht-Lundborg patients have been performed with disappointing results. When treating PMEs, particular care should be paid to avoid drugs known to aggravate myoclonus or myoclonic seizures, such as phenytoin, carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, lamotrigine, vigabatrin, tiagabine, gabapentin, and pregabalin. The emergency treatment of motor status, which often complicates the course of PMEs, consists of intravenous administration of benzodiazepines, valproate, or levetiracetam.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S145-S153
JournalEpileptic Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • brivaracetam
  • drugs worsening myoclonus
  • myoclonus
  • perampanel
  • progressive myoclonus epilepsies
  • valproate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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