Seizures in the developing brain: cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuronal damage, neurogenesis and cellular reorganization

Neurochem Int. 2008 May;52(6):935-47. doi: 10.1016/j.neuint.2007.10.021. Epub 2007 Nov 17.


Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder that occurs more frequently in children than in adults. The extent that prolonged seizure activity, i.e. status epilepticus (SE), and repeated, brief seizures affect neuronal structure and function in both the immature and mature brain has been the subject of increasing clinical and experimental research. Earlier studies suggest that seizure-induced effects in the immature brain compared with the adult brain are different. This is manifested as differences in neuronal vulnerability, cellular and synaptic reorganization and regenerative processes. The focus of this review is first to give a short overview of currently used experimental models of epilepsy in immature rats, and then discuss more thoroughly seizure-induced acute and sub-acute cellular and molecular alterations, highlight the contribution of inflammatory-like reactions and intracellular cytoskeleton to the insult, and reveal changes in the structure and function of inhibitory GABA(A) and excitatory glutamate receptors. The role of seizure-activated reparative, plastic processes, synaptic remodelling, neurogenesis as well as the long-term consequences of seizures are briefly outlined. The main emphasis is put on studies carried out in experimental animals, and the focus of interest is the hippocampus, the brain area of great vulnerability in epilepsy. In vitro studies are discussed only to limited extent. Collectively, recent studies suggest that the deleterious effects of seizures may not solely be a consequence of neuronal damage and loss per se, but could be due to the fact that seizures interfere with the highly regulated developmental processes in the immature brain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / etiology
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / metabolism
  • Brain Damage, Chronic / physiopathology*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Encephalitis / etiology
  • Encephalitis / metabolism
  • Encephalitis / physiopathology
  • Epilepsy / metabolism
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Nerve Degeneration / etiology
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology
  • Rats
  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter / metabolism
  • Synapses / metabolism


  • Receptors, Neurotransmitter