Causes of epilepsies: insights from discordant monozygous twins

Ann Neurol. 2001 Jan;49(1):45-52. doi: 10.1002/1531-8249(200101)49:1<45::aid-ana9>;2-f.


Whereas some patients with epilepsy have known acquired or genetic causes, in many the cause is unknown. By analyzing monozygotic twins, discordant for epilepsy, subtle etiological factors may be detected. We analyzed 12 monozygotic, discordant twins for factors explaining discordancy. These factors were presence of major clinical risk factors, presence of possibly epileptogenic lesions on brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and quantitative brain volume abnormalities. Major risk factors, with associated acquired lesions were found in 4 of 12 twins. An MRI lesion without a major risk factor was found in a further 4 of 12 twins. Two of these had unilateral malformations of cortical development, 1 had bilateral periventricular heterotopia, and 1 had focal atrophy. Significant twin-twin differences in MRI volumes without obvious MRI lesions or major risk factors were found in 2 of 12 twins. Both had larger volumes than their co-twins, and idiopathic generalized epilepsy. No clinical or MRI findings accounting for discordance for epilepsy were found in 2 of 12 twins. In 10 of 12 pairs a clinical or MR correlate of epilepsy was found; some of those were subtle and only apparent by twin-twin comparison. They may be due to occult acquired factors, such as prenatal insults, or to genetic abnormalities resulting from postfertilization genetic processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Epilepsy / etiology*
  • Epilepsy / genetics
  • Epilepsy / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Twins, Monozygotic / genetics