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Depression and epilepsy link reviewed

10 March, 2005

The link between
depression and epilepsy is being reviewed after research suggests that
people with a history of depression were up to seven times more likely
to develop epilepsy.

Researchers
had previously noted a higher incidence of depression among people with
epilepsy than the general population or others with chronic conditions
such as diabetes.

However,
new evidence describes the connection between epilepsy and depression
as 'maybe a two-way street', according to research carried out in
Sweden and the United States.

The research was reviewed at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr Andres Kanner, a specialist on epilepsy at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, commented:

"People
with a history of depression have a three to seven times higher risk of
developing epilepsy. This kind of information is forcing us to take a
second look at the interaction between depression and epilepsy."

Dr Kanner summarised the evidence for common biological pathways in a paper published in the journal Epilepsy Currents.

Tests
on rats with epilepsy have shown similar patterns of neurotransmitters
(a chemical in the brain that transmits signals between cells) to the
patterns in the brains of people with depression. Dr Kanner said that
this similarties might account for recent data suggesting that people
with a psychiatric history may not respond as well to medication or
surgery for treatment of their seizures.

Dr
Kanner recently studied 90 patients whose seizures failed to respond to
anti-epileptic medication and underwent brain surgery to remove tissue
that was the focus of the seizures. People with a lifetime history of
depression were less likely to become seizure-free, the study found. Dr
Kanner said this suggests depression could be a biological marker for a
more severe form of epilepsy.