The metabolic basis of epilepsy

Nat Rev Neurol. 2022 Jun;18(6):333-347. doi: 10.1038/s41582-022-00651-8. Epub 2022 Mar 31.


The brain is a highly energy-demanding organ and requires bioenergetic adaptability to balance normal activity with pathophysiological fuelling of spontaneous recurrent seizures, the hallmark feature of the epilepsies. Recurrent or prolonged seizures have long been known to permanently alter neuronal circuitry and to cause excitotoxic injury and aberrant inflammation. Furthermore, pathological changes in bioenergetics and metabolism are considered downstream consequences of epileptic seizures that begin at the synaptic level. However, as we highlight in this Review, evidence is also emerging that primary derangements in cellular or mitochondrial metabolism can result in seizure genesis and lead to spontaneous recurrent seizures. Basic and translational research indicates that the relationships between brain metabolism and epileptic seizures are complex and bidirectional, producing a vicious cycle that compounds the deleterious consequences of seizures. Metabolism-based treatments such as the high-fat, antiseizure ketogenic diet have become mainstream, and metabolic substrates and enzymes have become attractive molecular targets for seizure prevention and recovery. Moreover, given that metabolism is crucial for epigenetic as well as inflammatory changes, the idea that epileptogenesis can be both negatively and positively influenced by metabolic changes is rapidly gaining ground. Here, we review evidence that supports both pathophysiological and therapeutic roles for brain metabolism in epilepsy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Epilepsy*
  • Humans
  • Seizures / drug therapy
  • Seizures / etiology
  • Status Epilepticus*