In a new study, researchers have explained why epileptic seizures occur with alcohol withdrawal.
Such seizures are the most dramatic and prominent aspect of the "alcohol withdrawal syndrome" that occurs when a person abruptly stops a long-term or chronic drinking habit.
Now, the study's boffins have revealed that the flow of calcium ions into brain cells via voltage-gated calcium channels plays an important role in the generation of alcohol withdrawal seizures, because blocking this flow suppresses these seizures.
Using a careful analysis of correlations between the course of alcohol withdrawal seizures and the expression of calcium currents, Georgetown University Medical Center researchers found that the enhancement of total calcium current density in pre-clinical animal studies occur prior to the onset of alcohol withdrawal seizures.
The research presented at 39th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience also shows that calcium currents remain enhanced during the period of seizure susceptibility, but return to control levels when the period of seizure susceptibility is over.
"These preliminary findings are the first to indicate that altered calcium channel activity contributes to the occurrence of alcohol withdrawal seizures," explains lead author, Prosper N'Gouemo, PhD, an assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at GUMC.