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Turning down the volume: Astrocyte volume change in the generation and termination of epileptic seizures.


Approximately 1% of the global population suffers from epilepsy, a class of disorders characterized by recurrent and unpredictable seizures. Of these cases roughly one-third are refractory to current antiepileptic drugs, which typically target neuronal excitability directly. The events leading to seizure generation and epileptogenesis remain largely unknown, hindering development of new treatments. Some recent experimental models of epilepsy have provided compelling evidence that glial cells, especially astrocytes, could be central to seizure development. One of the proposed mechanisms for astrocyte involvement in seizures is astrocyte swelling, which may promote pathological neuronal firing and synchrony through reduction of the extracellular space and elevated glutamate concentrations. In this review, we discuss the common conditions under which astrocytes swell, the resultant effects on neural excitability, and how seizure development may ultimately be influenced by these effects.