Georgetown Univeristy LogoResearchers from Georgetown University Medical Center have provided a novel understanding of why epileptic seizures occur with alcohol withdrawal.

Epileptic seizures are known to be the most remarkable and prominent aspect of the ‘alcohol withdrawal syndrome’ which takes place when a person suddenly stops a long-term or chronic drinking habit.

Researchers have revealed that the flow of calcium ions into brain cells through voltage-gated calcium channels play an essential role in the generation of alcohol withdrawal seizures. Since blocking this flow may perhaps suppress these seizures. However do the changes in calcium currents appear to contribute to alcohol withdrawal seizures or are they a result of the seizures?

Furthermore, they discovered that the development of total calcium current density in pre-clinical animal studies seem to occur prior to the beginning of alcohol withdrawal seizures. Apparently, this discovery was done with the help of a careful investigation of correlations between the course of alcohol withdrawal seizures and the expression of calcium currents.

Lead researcher, Prosper N’Gouemo, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at GUMC elucidated that, “These preliminary findings are the first to indicate that altered calcium channel activity contributes to the occurrence of alcohol withdrawal seizures. The next step in our research is to determine which types of voltage-gated calcium channels contribute to the enhanced current density that takes place before the onset of alcohol withdrawal seizures so a potential treatment can be developed.”

The findings further revealed that calcium currents appear to remain enhanced during the period of seizure vulnerability. However, they seem to return to control levels when the period of seizure susceptibility is ended.

The findings of the research have been presented at 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.