The Skinny on Epilepsy

Although a common brain disorder that affects almost four million people nationwide, many people know little about epilepsy. Stephanie Rogers, a doctoral candidate at New York University (NYU), attempted to demystify the disorder with a thorough overview of “The Science of Epilepsy: What Is It and How Can We Understand It?” at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute during Brain Awareness Week.

Rogers explained epilepsy with a metaphor: Imagine neurons in the brain are people in a public space. Some of the people (neurons in a certain network) are having a conversation and talking directly to one another while others are overheard by the other people (neurons) in the room. During a seizure, all the people become distracted and stop their normal conversation and, in unison, chant a certain message—like fans at a sports game. Seizures activity is neurons joining together in a chant in the brain, and epilepsy is a neurological disorder caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain.

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Series Combats Disorders: First Up, Epilepsy

caveat logo.JPGPeople with epilepsy were once thought to be possessed by demons or evil spirits. Dubbed “the sacred disease,” epilepsy was profoundly misunderstood for centuries, even after the disorder was explained to be of human origin. So why is it, so many years later, that epilepsy is still not fully understood? And why is there still so much stigma attached to a disorder which affects approximately one in 26 people in the United States?

Caveat NYC, BraiNY, and the Epilepsy Foundation are attempting to eliminate that stigma. Last week saw the first part of a three-part event series, titled “A Lot On The Mind: Epilepsy.” Held at Caveat at 21 A Clinton St. in Manhattan and open to the public, tickets are $15 each. Each event in the series is hosted by Stephanie Rogers, a Ph.D. candidate at New York University and an adjunct instructor at Fordham University. The series focuses on educating and demystifying misconceptions on epilepsy, autism, and Huntington’s Disease.

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Stephanie Rogers. Photo: Caveat NYC

Rogers, whose sister suffers from untreatable epilepsy, began by showing slides that explained the origins and causes of epilepsy. They include brain infection, head trauma, brain tumor, and stroke, as well as a genetic link. However, as Rogers explained, the cause of epileptic seizures remains a mystery in many patients. Continue reading

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