GeorgeTown University Medical Center

Study experts from GeorgeTown University Medical center claim that anti-epilectic drug treatments given when the brain is developing apparently seem to generate schizophrenia-like behavior in animal models.

In humans, having a history of seizures in infancy is said to be an imperative risk factor for development of schizophrenia afterwards but it may not be known whether the increased risk is due to seizures themselves, or from side effects of anti-epileptic drug (AED) treatment. The experts illustrate that exposure to AEDs during decisive periods of brain development in animal models may boost schizophrenia-like behaviors.

Guillermo Palchik, a doctoral student in the department of pediatrics at GUMC, commented, “We know that early-life exposure to AEDs such as Phenobarbital triggers cell death in many brain regions associated with the onset of schizophrenia. This study not only suggests a relationship between the drugs and schizophrenia, but it raises important questions regarding the side effects of a widely-used class of drugs.”

Guillermo Palchik further added that phenobarbital and other AEDs are not only used as a treatment for seizures but more generally in the treatment of migraines, neuropathic pain and mood disorders, among other ailments, and can be considered drugs of abuse.

The study was presented at the 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience.