HOUSTON — “Silent seizures” deep within the brain may hold a clue as to what causes memory loss in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, and may help one day lead to new treatments for the 5 million Americans who suffer from this debilitating disease.

Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine had observed abnormal, episodic electrical activity in the brains of mice in a previous study, but noticed the rodents did not show any observable convulsions. Scientists speculated that these so-called “silent seizures” may produce memory problems in the mice and wondered if this type of activity could lead to similar issues in people with Alzheimer’s.

Older man with Alzheimer's disease or dementia
“Silent seizures” occurring deep within the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease may play a significant role in memory loss of those with the condition, a recent study found.

“My colleagues and I have been interested for years in determining whether ‘silent seizures’ are present in the hippocampus of patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Dr. Jeffrey Noebels, a professor at the university and one of the senior study authors, in a media release.

The team tested two patients with Alzheimer’s who did not have a history of epilepsy or obvious seizures. Neither of them had any of the genes associated with either epilepsy or Alzheimer’s.

Fine wires passing through a natural opening in the skull allowed researchers to study the electrical activity deep in the brain over the course of several days. At the same time, normal EEG readings were taken on the scalp.

Both patients tested had definite silent seizures deep in their brains, but the EEG recordings taken on their scalps were normal. This showed that EEG tests do not capture the deep-brain activity occurring in Alzheimer’s patients.

When there is a history of Alzheimer’s in families, it is not unusual to see convulsive seizures. For most patients who develop the disease, however, there is no family history and no observable seizures. EEG testing is not helpful for the majority of Alzheimer’s patients because it cannot detect the deep-brain activity.

Researchers were also particularly interested in a finding that showed silent seizures were still occurring when the patients were asleep.

“What was fascinating was that this activity was present at night when the patients were sleeping, a time thought to be critical for the consolidation of recent memories, a trait that is most impaired in early Alzheimer’s disease,” says Noebels.

Noebels and his colleagues believe the results show a probable link between silent seizures and the memory loss and regression that occurs with Alzheimer’s disease.

“We need to determine whether this finding is common in Alzheimer’s disease, present in other types of progressive degenerative neurocognitive diseases and when in the course of the disease it occurs,” says co-author Dr. Andrew Cole, director of Massachusetts General Hospital Epilepsy Service and professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School.

Adds Dr. Alicia Goldman, an associate professor at the university and another co-author of the study: “From a physician’s perspective, I think this work opened my eyes to the need to look deeper into our patients’ condition in order to improve the quality of their lives as well as that of their caregivers.”

Goldman and the other researchers say more research into these links could potentially have a major impact on how Alzheimer’s disease is treated in the future.

The study’s findings were published online in the journal Nature Medicine.

About Terra Marquette

Terra is a Denver-area freelance writer, editor and researcher. In her free time, she creates playlists for every mood.

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  1. vidyaguy says:

    Useless article with questionable conclusions, because it never provides the signal criteria that defines “silent seizures,” nor critical differences from other deep activity and the statistical “separation” between them. There is, however, considerable opinion and many conclusions which span an immense space of inference.

    1. Dan Roth says:

      Don’t attack their method. They really don’t have one. They just are saying things they like. What does Trump call that, “fake news”?

    2. TheTexasCooke says:

      The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The degrees of freedom on 2 observations is ZERO and they should know that, at least! They are clueless as to what is “normal” and what is not, because everyone, up until now, have been satisfied the surface electrode readings….but they did get the 15 minutes of fame…much like the t.u. prof did with “cold fusion”…..it’s just embarrassing!

  2. nick0004 says:

    Political correctness is just organized anti white hatred.

    If “diversity” is such a gift, why are self-proclaimed “diversity advocates” not prioritizing this blessing to places that have much less of it, like Africa or Asia?

    Diversity only means taking things that are white and making them non white

    Open borders is the real white so-called ‘privilege’.

    Its Anti White

  3. Flechette says:

    I was going to post something but forgot what it was.

  4. brian hodge says:

    As Pink Floyd once sang in their song, “If”,……….”if I go insane. Please don’t put your wires in my brain.” Be your own monster, not someone else’s.

  5. unclevito says:

    I have silent farts. Are they similar?

    1. Covfefe Sh1thole says:

      Haha! If they come from your brain, yes 🙂

  6. GunzRloaded says:

    Yep,with silent seizures it looks like another job for CBD oil to take command and cure the problem…!!!!

  7. Covfefe Sh1thole says:

    What they called here ‘silent seizures’ in a failed attempt to ‘vulgarize knowledge’ are in fact called ‘subclinical seizures’, which means that the exaggerate electrical activity in the neurons is not translated into convulsions, ‘absences’ or any other visually observable (clinical) manifestation of a seizure. And it has been documented long time ago that this induces additional brain damage in people with strokes or other injuries to the brain. of course, lacking knowledge about a subject does not preclude anyone to have an opinion in this age of the Internet.