The anticonvulsants (also commonly known as antiepileptic drugs) are a diverse group of pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of epileptic seizures. Anticonvulsants are also increasingly being used in the treatment of bipolar disorder, since many seem to act as mood stabilizers, and for the treatment of neuropathic pain. The goal of an anticonvulsant is to suppress the rapid and excessive firing of neurons that start a seizure. Failing this, an effective anticonvulsant would prevent the spread of the seizure within the brain and offer protection against possible excitotoxic effects, that may result in brain damage. Some studies have cited that anticonvulsants themselves are linked to lowered IQ in children. However these adverse effects must be balanced against the significant risk epileptiform seizures pose to children and the distinct possibility of death and devastating neurological sequela secondary to seizures. Anticonvulsants are more accurately called antiepileptic drugs (abbreviated "AEDs"), and are sometimes referred to as antiseizure drugs. While the term 'anticonvulsant' is a fair description of AEDs, the use of this term tends to lead to confusion between epilepsy and non-epileptic convulsions. Convulsive non-epileptic seizures are quite common, and these types of seizures do not respond to antiepileptic drugs. In epilepsy, an area of the cortex is typically hyper-irritable. This condition can often be confirmed by completing a diagnostic EEG. Antiepileptic drugs function to help reduce this area of irritability and thus prevent epileptiform seizures.
Conventional antiepileptic drugs block sodium channels or enhance g-aminobutyric acid function. Several antiepileptic drugs have multiple or uncertain mechanisms of action. Next to the voltage-gated sodium channels and components of the GABA system, their targets include GABAA receptors, the GAT-1 GABA transporter, and GABA transaminase. Additional targets include voltage-gated calcium channels, SV2A, and α2δ. The drug class was the US's 5th-best-selling in 2007.
An epileptic seizure (colloquially a fit) is a transient symptom of "abnormal excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain". The outward effect can be as dramatic as a wild thrashing movement (tonic-clonic seizure) or as mild as a brief loss of awareness (absence seizure). It can manifest as an alteration in mental state, tonic or clonic movements, convulsions, and various other psychic symptoms (such as déjà vu or jamais vu). Sometimes it is not accompanied by convulsions but a full body "slump", where the person simply will lose body control and slump to the ground. The medical syndrome of recurrent, unprovoked seizures is termed epilepsy, but seizures can occur in people who do not have epilepsy. For more information, see non-epileptic seizure.
Epilepsy affects more than 50 million people worldwide, nearly 80% of whom live in developing countries. About 4% of all people will have an unprovoked seizure by the age of 80 and the chance of experiencing a second seizure is between 30% and 50%. Treatment may reduce the chance of a second one by as much as half. Most single episode seizures are managed by primary care physicians (emergency or general practitioners), whereas investigation and management of ongoing epilepsy is usually done by neurologists. Difficult-to-manage epilepsy may require consultation with an epileptologist, a neurologist with an interest in epilepsy.
The central nervous system (CNS) is the part of the nervous system that integrates the information that it receives from, and coordinates the activity of, all parts of the bodies of bilaterian animals—that is, all multicellular animals except radially symmetric animals such as sponges and jellyfish. It contains the majority of the nervous system and consists of the brain and the spinal cord. Some classifications also include the retina and the second cranial nerve as parts of the CNS. Together with the peripheral nervous system, it has a fundamental role in the control of behavior. The CNS is contained within the dorsal cavity, with the brain in the cranial cavity and the spinal cord in the spinal cavity. In vertebrates, the brain is protected by the skull, while the spinal cord is protected by the vertebrae, and both are enclosed in the meninges.
During early development of the vertebrate embryo, a longitudinal groove on the neural plate gradually deepens and the ridges on either side of the groove (the neural folds) become elevated, and ultimately meet, transforming the groove into a closed tube, the ectodermal wall of which forms the rudiment of the nervous system. This tube initially differentiates into three vesicles (pockets): the prosencephalon at the front, the mesencephalon, and, between the mesencephalon and the spinal cord, the rhombencephalon. (By six weeks in the human embryo) the prosencephalon then divides further into the telencephalon and diencephalon; and the rhombencephalon divides into the metencephalon and myelencephalon.