Synchronization of cardiac autonomic neural discharge with epileptogenic activity: The lockstep phenomenon

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Lathers CM, Schraeder PL, and Weiner FL (1987) Synchronization of cardiac autonomic neural discharge with epileptogenic activity: The lockstep phenomenon. Electroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol 67:3 247–59.

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Abstract: Autonomic dysfunction has been implicated in the sudden, unexplained deaths which account for 5-17% of mortality in persons with epilepsy. This study was designed to determine if epileptogenic activity is associated with changes in the pattern of autonomic cardiac neural discharge and the development of arrhythmias. Nine cats, anesthetized with alpha-chloralose, received pentylenetetrazol (PTZ) 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 2000 mg/kg, i.v. at 10 min intervals. Cardiac postganglionic sympathetic and vagal nerve discharges were correlated with the interictal spikes, brief ictal discharges (bilateral polyspikes less than 10 sec duration), and prolonged ictal discharges (polyspikes lasting greater than 10 sec). Cardiac sympathetic and vagal neural discharges were intermittently synchronized 1:1 with all 3 types of epileptogenic discharge, i.e., the lockstep phenomenon (LSP); at other times the relationship was almost 1:1 LSP was not present during control and did not always persist for the entire interval after each PTZ dose. Five of 8 cats showed LSP in the cardiac sympathetic neural discharge associated with interictal spikes induced by 10 mg/kg PTZ; 3 others exhibited LSP with interictal spikes seen subsequent to ictal discharges. The incidence of LSP was less often associated with cardiac vagal neural discharge (2 of 7 cats). Premature ventricular contractions were sometimes associated with LSP. Abnormal cardiac sympathetic and vagal neural discharge and cardiac arrhythmias were thus associated with subconvulsant (interictal) activity. Therefore, the LSP may be a factor in the mechanism of unexplained death in persons with epilepsy who exhibited no overt seizure activity at the time of demise.

Context

  • Animal study in cat using pentylenetetrazol following anesthesia to assess synchronization (‘lockstep’ activity) of firing of sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves relative to interictal spikes and ictal discharges. Such synchronization was observed and appeared to be correlated with premature ventricular contractions.

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