Catastrophic Epilepsies of Childhood

Annu Rev Neurosci. 2017 Jul 25;40:149-166. doi: 10.1146/annurev-neuro-072116-031250.


The tragedy of epilepsy emerges from the combination of its high prevalence, impact upon sufferers and their families, and unpredictability. Childhood epilepsies are frequently severe, presenting in infancy with pharmaco-resistant seizures; are often accompanied by debilitating neuropsychiatric and systemic comorbidities; and carry a grave risk of mortality. Here, we review the most current basic science and translational research findings on several of the most catastrophic forms of pediatric epilepsy. We focus largely on genetic epilepsies and the research that is discovering the mechanisms linking disease genes to epilepsy syndromes. We also describe the strides made toward developing novel pharmacological and interventional treatment strategies to treat these disorders. The research reviewed provides hope for a complete understanding of, and eventual cure for, these childhood epilepsy syndromes.

Keywords: development; electrophysiology; genetic; plasticity; seizure disorder; syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / physiopathology*
  • Child
  • Epilepsy / diagnosis*
  • Epilepsy / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*
  • Seizures / diagnosis*
  • Seizures / physiopathology