This post is part of the Epilepsy Blog Relay™.
Hot Neurobiology Topics in Epilepsy
Kathryn A. Davis, MD, MSTR, Assistant Professor of Neurology at the University of Pennsylvania and member of the ILAE NBC recently had the opportunity to connect with Sanjay Sisodiya, MRCP, PhD, on the topic of climate change and the impact it is having on epilepsy.
Dr. Sanjay Sisodiya is Professor of Neurology at UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology and Honorary Consultant Neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery and the Epilepsy Society. Dr. Sisodiya studied medicine at the University of Cambridge and Guy’s Hospital, and trained in Neurology in Oxford and at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. He was awarded a PhD for working in brain magnetic resonance imaging in epilepsy.
Dr. Sisodiya’s main interests are in epilepsy, especially difficult-to-treat epilepsy, epilepsy genetics and treatment-response genetics, which are also his key research interests. He runs a specialist service for the evaluation and management of epilepsy in adults.
Dr. Sisodiya is the first-author of a paper published in Epilepsia Open entitled, “Climate change and epilepsy: Time to take action.”
Excerpt of journal article
Climate change is the biggest challenge facing humanity today. The associated global warming and humidification, increases in the severity and frequency of extreme climate events, extension of the ranges of vector‐borne diseases, and the consequent social and economic stresses and disruption will have major negative consequences on many aspects of health care.PDF of Full Article
Climate Change and Epilepsy
ILAE Neurobiology Commission: Dr. Sisodiya, how will climate change impact people’s lives and healthcare? What is the evidence?
Dr. Sanjay Sisodiya: In science and clinical practice, we are always looking for the best evidence for what we do. The evidence base for the climate emergency we face is amongst the strongest in any field of science: over 11,000 scientists were signatories to a document warning of the challenge we face (https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biz088). People’s lives will undoubtedly be affected. Whilst scientists are careful not to blame individual climate events (e.g. such as the current bushfires in Australia) on climate change, the frequency and severity of such events, and of a global warming of the climate, and are due to climate change. There is concern that healthcare will also be greatly affected, and efforts are being made to address this concern (e.g. The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: ensuring that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate. Watts N, et al. Lancet. 2019 Nov 16;394(10211):1836-1878).
NBC: Will there be specific impacts to people living with epilepsy?
SS: It is important to appreciate that there are separate points here. Climate change will affect people’s lives across many aspects, and all over the world – and people with epilepsy will be affected as will everyone. We all contribute to climate change through our daily lives, to a greater or lesser extent, and in this sense, we all have a role to play, whether through trying to reduce our own carbon emissions at the personal level, or through trying to promote change in our workplaces, by our employers, or even our governments. Moreover, some people with epilepsy may have less resilience or fewer resources to meet the new and added challenges that climate change will throw up. Finally, it is possible that climate change will specifically affect people with epilepsy, for example by making seizures more likely as global temperatures rise, or through increasing levels of personal stress – but these are areas for which currently we do not have much evidence and that need more research. But we must remember that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence!
NBC: What can people living with epilepsy and their caregivers do to lessen the impacts?
SS: We can all try to do what we can. The size of the challenge is great. Action at international collaborative and national governmental levels is likely to be essential, but we can all also take steps ourselves. There are simple ways to work out your own carbon footprint, for example: https://footprint.wwf.org.uk/#/ or https://offset.climateneutralnow.org/footprintcalc. You can then see what you might to do reduce your own footprint. For example, for many people, flying is a major contributor to their carbon footprint at an individual level. As always, people with epilepsy should not take action that might compromise their own healthcare.
NBC: What can epilepsy providers do to lessen the impacts?
SS: There are many things – again flying is probably a major area for attention. We discuss this in more detail in our article in Epilepsia Open.
NBC: What are the unanswered questions regarding the impact of climate change on epilepsy? What advances can we expect in the next 5-10 years?
SS: We need to work out what the consequences of climate change will be specifically on epilepsy. We need to do the research that will provide answers to questions such as whether and which aspects of climate change might generate the biggest new risks for people with epilepsy, or are most likely to increase the frequency or intensity of seizures, what the effects of climate change-related stress might be, or whether rising temperatures and other effects of climate change might pose risks to the storage and distribution of treatments used in epilepsy. There are lots of areas to look at. A group of concerned doctors and scientists have banded together to promote work in this area: we are called EpilepsyClimateChange. Time is of the urgency, so we hope to have answers within the next few years.
Living Well With Epilepsy has partnered with the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) to bring you a series on Hot Neurobiology Topics in Epilepsy. This initiative is led by the ILAE Neurobiology Commission (NBC), which is chaired by Aristea Galanopoulou, MD, PhD (USA). Dr. Galanopoulou, Professor of Neurology and Professor of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, works towards promoting neurobiology research in epilepsy through advocacy, education, training, proposals of optimal methodologies and infrastructure improvements. The NBC organizes activities aimed at informing the progress and best practices in neurobiology of epilepsy research, including symposia, workshops and reports.
NEXT UP: Be sure to check out the next post tomorrow at https://livingwellwithepilepsy.com.