People with epilepsy frequently report emotional stress in the lead-up to a seizure; but although the association between stress and seizures is well recognised, the mechanisms for this is still not understood.
The steroid hormone cortisol is secreted by the body in spurts over the course of the day, and its levels increase dramatically during stress. Cortisol is known to have major effects on both neuronal activity and on the ways that brain cells communicate, so it could plausibly play a role in seizures. Professor Stafford Lightman at the University of Bristol, and colleagues in Bristol and Exeter, have been awarded £29,208 over 24 months, for a pilot grant entitled How do stress hormones trigger seizures? in which they will investigate this.
During the study the team will use animal and mathematical models to examine precisely how changes in cortisol levels alter the electrical activity of neuronal circuits in the brain that are known to be associated with seizures. They will later use synthetic compounds that regulate the activity of steroids, to find out whether stress-related seizures can be reduced or even prevented.
If successful, this grant could potentially lead to the development of new treatments for epilepsy.