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  • How Do Seizures Affect Memory?

How Do Seizures Affect Memory?

Apr 28 2019 Read 728 Times

Epileptic seizures are triggered by abnormal or synchronous neuronal activity within the brain, with an estimated 60 million people around the world suffering from the central nervous system disorder. Now, a new study from Northwestern University in Evanston has revealed new insight into the neurological impact of seizures, with researchers speculating that episodes could scramble memories during sleep.

The preliminary study, which suggests that abnormal electrical activity in the hippocampus region could have a negative impact on memory consolidation, could help explain why some epilepsy patients have trouble recalling newly learned information.

"We propose that abnormal electrical activity in the hippocampus due to a seizure disorder could disrupt memory storage," reads the abstract.

Study finds epilepsy seizures hinder memory consolidation

During sleep, the brain actively revises newly learned information to strengthen the memory and embed material. However when the brain is affected by epileptic seizures this process can be rushed and as a result, compromise the brain's capacity to store information and create long-term memories.

Neuroscientist Jessica Creery and her colleagues recorded the process by playing specific sounds while teaching nine epilepsy patients to locate images on common objects on a digital screen. Later, while the subjects were sleeping, the researchers replayed the sounds to spark the associated images and strengthen memories.

Known as targeted memory reactivation, this covert method improved image recollection performance for five people who didn't experience seizures during sleep. For the four people who had mild seizures, targeted memory reactivation during sleep had a negative impact on the ability to locate images associated with certain sounds.

A new breakthrough for cognitive research

The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the Cognitive Neuroscience Society, with Creery asserting that the study suggests that seizures accelerate memory loss and hinder the brain's ability to retain new information.

"Because memory was preferentially influenced for cued object-locations, rather than defective for all object-locations that had been learned, we suggest that overnight seizures specifically accelerated forgetting for exogenously reactivated memories," explains the abstract.

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