The influence of the central nervous system and autonomic system on cardiac activity is being intensively studied, as it contributes to the high rate of cardiologic comorbidities observed in people with epilepsy. Indeed, neuroanatomic connections between the brain and the heart provide links that allow cardiac arrhythmias to occur in response to brain activation, have been shown to produce arrhythmia both experimentally and clinically. Moreover, seizures may induce a variety of transient cardiac effects, which include changes in heart rate, heart rate variability, arrhythmias, asystole, and other ECG abnormalities, and can trigger the development of Takotsubo syndrome. People with epilepsy are at a higher risk of death than the general population, and sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the most important direct epilepsy-related cause of death. Although the cause of SUDEP is still unknown, cardiac abnormalities during and between seizures could play a significant role in its pathogenesis, as highlighted by studies on animal models of SUDEP and registration of SUDEP events. Recently, genetic mutations in genes co-expressed in the heart and brain, which may result in epilepsy and cardiac comorbidity/increased risk for SUDEP, have been described. Recognition and a better understanding of brain-heart interactions, together with new advances in sequencing techniques, may provide new insights into future novel therapies and help in the prevention of cardiac dysfunction and sudden death in epileptic individuals.
Epilepsy; Heart disease; Sudden death
Costagliola G, Orsini A, Coll M, Brugada R, Parisi P, Striano P. The brain–heart interaction in epilepsy: implications fordiagnosis, therapy, and SUDEP prevention. Ann Clin Transl Neurol. 2021 Jul;8(7):1557-1568.
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