Sleep: The Tip of the Iceberg in the Bidirectional Link Between Alzheimer's Disease and Epilepsy

Front Neurol. 2022 Apr 11:13:836292. doi: 10.3389/fneur.2022.836292. eCollection 2022.


The observation that a pathophysiological link might exist between Alzheimer's disease (AD) and epilepsy dates back to the identification of the first cases of the pathology itself and is now strongly supported by an ever-increasing mountain of literature. An overwhelming majority of data suggests not only a higher prevalence of epilepsy in Alzheimer's disease compared to healthy aging, but also that AD patients with a comorbid epileptic syndrome, even subclinical, have a steeper cognitive decline. Moreover, clinical and preclinical investigations have revealed a marked sleep-related increase in the frequency of epileptic activities. This characteristic might provide clues to the pathophysiological pathways underlying this comorbidity. Furthermore, the preferential sleep-related occurrence of epileptic events opens up the possibility that they might hasten cognitive decline by interfering with the delicately orchestrated synchrony of oscillatory activities implicated in sleep-related memory consolidation. Therefore, we scrutinized the literature for mechanisms that might promote sleep-related epileptic activity in AD and, possibly dementia onset in epilepsy, and we also aimed to determine to what degree and through which processes such events might alter the progression of AD. Finally, we discuss the implications for patient care and try to identify a common basis for methodological considerations for future research and clinical practice.

Keywords: Alzheimer's disease; EEG; epilepsy; glymphatic clearance; interictal spike; memory consolidation; neuronal hyperexcitability; sleep.

Publication types

  • Review