JOURNAL OF NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH, vol.99, no.9, pp.2059-2073, 2021 (SCI-Expanded)
Epilepsy is a debilitating disorder of uncontrollable recurrent seizures that occurs as a result of imbalances in the brain excitatory and inhibitory neuronal signals, that could stem from a range of functional and structural neuronal impairments. Globally, nearly 70 million people are negatively impacted by epilepsy and its comorbidities. One such comorbidity is the effect epilepsy has on the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which plays a role in the control of blood circulation, respiration and gastrointestinal function. These epilepsy-induced impairments in the circulatory and respiratory systems may contribute toward sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP). Although, various hypotheses have been proposed regarding the role of epilepsy on ANS, the linking pathological mechanism still remains unclear. Channelopathies and seizure-induced damages in ANS-control brain structures were some of the causal/pathological candidates of cardiorespiratory comorbidities in epilepsy patients, especially in those who were drug resistant. However, emerging preclinical research suggest that neurotransmitter/receptor dysfunction and synaptic changes in the ANS may also contribute to the epilepsy-related autonomic disorders. Thus, pathological mechanisms of cardiorespiratory dysfunction should be elucidated by considering the modifications in anatomy and physiology of the autonomic system caused by seizures. In this regard, we present a comprehensive review of the current literature, both clinical and preclinical animal studies, on the cardiorespiratory findings in epilepsy and elucidate the possible pathological mechanisms of these findings, in hopes to prevent SUDEP especially in patients who are drug resistant.