Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is the leading cause of death in patients with refractory epilepsy. SUDEP occurs more commonly during nighttime sleep. The details of why SUDEP occurs at night are not well understood. Understanding why SUDEP occurs at night during sleep might help to better understand why SUDEP occurs at all and hasten development of preventive strategies. Here we aimed to understand circumstances causing seizures that occur during sleep to result in death. Groups of twelve adult male mice were instrumented for EEG, EMG and EKG recording and subjected to seizure induction via maximal electroshock (MES) during wakefulness, non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Seizure inductions were performed with concomitant EEG, EMG, and EKG recording and breathing assessment via whole body plethysmography. Seizures induced via MES during sleep were associated with more profound respiratory suppression and were more likely to result in death. Despite REM sleep being a time when seizures do not typically occur spontaneously, when seizures were forced to occur during REM sleep, they were invariably fatal in this model. An examination of baseline breathing revealed that mice that died following a seizure had increased baseline respiratory rate variability compared to those that did not die. These data demonstrate that sleep, especially REM sleep, can be a dangerous time for a seizure to occur. These data also demonstrate that there may be baseline respiratory abnormalities which can predict which individuals have higher risk for seizure-induced death.
- Copyright © 2016, Journal of Neurophysiology