Epileptic seizures occur when neurons in the brain become excessively active. However, a new study from MIT neuroscientists suggests that some seizures may originate in non-neuronal cells known as glia, which were long believed to play a mere supporting role in brain function.
In a study of fruit flies, the researchers identified a glial-cell mutation that makes the flies much more prone to epileptic seizures. Mutations in the gene, which influences glial cells’ communication with neurons, appear to make neurons much more excitable. That excitability makes the flies more likely to seize in response to environmental stimuli, such as extreme temperatures.