"Untangling" Alzheimer's disease and epilepsy

Epilepsy Curr. 2012 Sep;12(5):178-83. doi: 10.5698/1535-7511-12.5.178.

Abstract

There is a substantial body of evidence that spontaneous recurrent seizures occur in a subset of patients with Alzheimer disease (AD), especially the familial forms that have an early onset. In transgenic mice that simulate these genetic forms of AD, seizures or reduced seizure threshold have also been reported. Mechanisms underlying the seizures or reduced seizure threshold in these mice are not yet clear and are likely to be complex, because the synthesis of amyloid β (Aβ) involves many peptides and proteases that influence excitability. Based on transgenic mouse models of AD where Aβ and its precursor are elevated, it has been suggested that seizures are caused by the downregulation of the Nav1.1 sodium channel in a subset of GABAergic interneurons, leading to a reduction in GABAergic inhibition. Another mechanism of hyperexcitability appears to involve tau, because deletion of tau reduces seizures in some of the same transgenic mouse models of AD. Therefore, altered excitability may be as much a characteristic of AD as plaques and tangles-especially for the familial forms of AD.