Here at Epilepsy in English, we do everything that we can to avoid specialised scientific words in our articles. Sometimes though, when they are very important to a story, it’s hard to avoid them. Plus, if you want to go away and look at the articles we’re talking about, they will be full of weird and wonderful words, phrases and abbreviations.
Here, you can find plain English definitions for common jargon that you are likely to come across on your travels in the epilepsy field. The list isn’t exhaustive but we’ll do our best to include as many words as we can.
AAV – Stands for adeno-associated virus. It is a commonly used viral vector – a way to get new genetic material into cells in the body.
AED – Stands for anti-epileptic drug. This terms covers any drug that can be prescribed to try to stop seizures.
Action potential – A short burst of electrical activity inside a brain cell which lasts for a few milliseconds.
DNA – Stands for deoxyribonucleic acid. It is the molecule which contains all of the genetic information in an organism.
EEG – Stands for electroencephalography. It is an indirect way to measure the electrical activity of the brain, using electrodes placed on the scalp or on the surface of the brain.
Epileptiform Activity – This term usually refers to seizure-like activity recorded in dissected pieces of brain or brain cells. This activity cannot be called ‘epilepsy’ or ‘seizures’ because these types of experimental preparation don’t capture all the aspects of epilepsy. Despite this, they are still give a good representation of the disease and so we say ‘epileptiform’ or ‘seizure-like’.
GABA – Stands for gamma-aminobutyric acid. It is a chemical which is released by inhibitory brain cells and reduces the electrical activity of the cells that it binds to.
Glutamate – It is a chemical which is released by excitatory brain cells and increases the electrical activity of the cells that it binds to.
Hippocampus – A part of the brain that is mainly responsible for learning and memory. To perform this role, the electrical connections in the hippocampus need to be flexible. This can also make it susceptible to seizures and indeed it is quite common that seizures start in the hippocampus.
Neuron – Any brain cell which is electrically active.
Neurotransmitter – A chemical which is released by a brain cell and has effects on the activity of other brain cells. For example GABA and glutamate are neurotransmitters.