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Climate change and epilepsy: Insights from clinical and basic science studies

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Lewis-Smith, Dr Stephen Blenkinsop, Professor Hayley Fowler


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© 2021 Elsevier Inc.Climate change is with us. As professionals who place value on evidence-based practice, climate change is something we cannot ignore. The current pandemic of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, has demonstrated how global crises can arise suddenly and have a significant impact on public health. Global warming, a chronic process punctuated by acute episodes of extreme weather events, is an insidious global health crisis needing at least as much attention. Many neurological diseases are complex chronic conditions influenced at many levels by changes in the environment. This review aimed to collate and evaluate reports from clinical and basic science about the relationship between climate change and epilepsy. The keywords climate change, seasonal variation, temperature, humidity, thermoregulation, biorhythm, gene, circadian rhythm, heat, and weather were used to search the published evidence. A number of climatic variables are associated with increased seizure frequency in people with epilepsy. Climate change-induced increase in seizure precipitants such as fevers, stress, and sleep deprivation (e.g. as a result of more frequent extreme weather events) or vector-borne infections may trigger or exacerbate seizures, lead to deterioration of seizure control, and affect neurological, cerebrovascular, or cardiovascular comorbidities and risk of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy. Risks are likely to be modified by many factors, ranging from individual genetic variation and temperature-dependent channel function, to housing quality and global supply chains. According to the results of the limited number of experimental studies with animal models of seizures or epilepsy, different seizure types appear to have distinct susceptibility to seasonal influences. Increased body temperature, whether in the context of fever or not, has a critical role in seizure threshold and seizure-related brain damage. Links between climate change and epilepsy are likely to be multifactorial, complex, and often indirect, which makes predictions difficult. We need more data on possible climate-driven altered risks for seizures, epilepsy, and epileptogenesis, to identify underlying mechanisms at systems, cellular, and molecular levels for better understanding of the impact of climate change on epilepsy. Further focussed data would help us to develop evidence for mitigation methods to do more to protect people with epilepsy from the effects of climate change.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gulcebi MI, Bartolini E, Lee O, Lisgaras CP, Onat F, Mifsud J, Striano P, Vezzani A, Hildebrand MS, Jimenez-Jimenez D, Junck L, Lewis-Smith D, Scheffer IE, Thijs RD, Zuberi SM, Blenkinsop S, Fowler HJ, Foley A, Sisodiya SM, Balestrini S, Berkovic S, Cavalleri G, Correa DJ, Martins Custodio H, Galovic M, Guerrini R, Henshall D, Howard O, Hughes K, Katsarou A, Koeleman BPC, Krause R, Lowenstein D, Mandelenaki D, Marini C, O'Brien TJ, Pace A, De Palma L, Perucca P, Pitkanen A, Quinn F, Selmer KK, Steward CA, Swanborough N, Thijs R, Tittensor P, Trivisano M, Weckhuysen S, Zara F

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Epilepsy and Behavior

Year: 2021

Volume: 116

Print publication date: 01/03/2021

Online publication date: 09/02/2021

Acceptance date: 03/01/2021

ISSN (print): 1525-5050

ISSN (electronic): 1525-5069

Publisher: Academic Press Inc.


DOI: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2021.107791