If you’re an epileptic, you’re afflicted by the hyperactivity of neuronal networks.
A neuron “fires” electric pulses down its body to release small molecules called neurotransmitters. A neurotransmitter’s job is to excite or inhibit electric current in adjacent neurons. Excitation is recurrent until an inhibiting neurotransmitter comes along and chills things out.
The predominant molecules of chill are gamma-Aminobutryic Acid (GABA) and gycine. (There are other neurotransmitters thought to contribute to chilldom. But, nevermind that.) To make things simple, you can consider both of these molecules as amino acids (yes, the building blocks of proteins), although only glycine is considered a true amino acid.
Get this! It is not without irony that glutamate, the chemical precursor to GABA, happens to be the primary excitatory neurotransmitter!
When a neuron is too excited, or hyperactive, it’s electric pulses are more frequent and…uninhibited. It’s when groups of neurons become hyperactive, like a class of preschoolers in a bath of high fructose corn syrup and Red 40, that results in what’s called a seizure or convulsion. Sometimes the hyperactivity remains in a small portion of the brain and sometimes the hyperactivity spreads, affecting large portions of the brain.
Typically, your own molecules of chill squelch hyperactivity quickly. Thus a seizure will only last seconds to a couple minutes. You may not even be aware that you had one, as is sometimes the case in absence seizures. Yet sometimes, sadly, the hyperactivity cannot be stopped for long periods (from minutes to hours!). The latter form of seizure is termed status epilepticus, a brutal occurrence requiring pharmaceutical mediation.
Either way things are too excited because our molecules of chill simply cannot get the job done or are too small in number.
But, why? Stay tuned…for “Molecules of Chill: The Grand Gates Chilldom”