Review article| Volume 23, ISSUE 7, P516-522, November 2001

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Neuropathology of the limbic system and brainstem in West syndrome


      Both West syndrome (WS) and Lennox–Gastaut syndrome (LGS) are associated with various developmental disorders and it has been discussed whether the cerebral cortex or subcortical structures are important in the pathogenesis of both epileptic syndromes. Here we briefly review the literature on the neuropathological findings in WS and LGS, and present our data on immunohistochemical analysis of the brainstem and limbic lesions in autopsy cases of lissencephaly and sequels of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) caused by perinatal asphyxia manifested as both WS and LGS (WS/LGS). Nowadays, the neuroradiological examinations and surgical pathology in WS cases demonstrate dysplastic cerebral lesions more frequently than previously expected. On the other hand, we have delineated the common brainstem lesions such as small size of the tegmentum and spongy state and/or gliosis in the central tegmental tract in a number of WS autopsy cases of various etiologies. Recently, we reported the reduced expression of tyrosine hydroxylase, methionine enkephalin and parvalbumin in the brainstem in autopsy cases of lissencephaly and sequels of HIE manifested as WS/LGS, regardless of the cerebral changes. In the same subjects, we examined the expression of glutamate transporters and calcium-binding proteins in the limbic system by immunohistochemistry. These represent markers of glutamate neurotoxicity and the GABAergic inhibitory neuron system, respectively. The altered expressions of glial glutamate transporters and calcium-binding proteins in the limbic system seemed to reflect temporal lobe sclerosis, irrespective of the past history of WS, and there were no differences in the limbic involvement between the cases manifested as WS/LGS and disease controls of sequels of HIE not manifested as WS/LGS. It is more likely that the brainstem lesions contribute to the pathogenesis of WS and/or LGS more than the heterogeneous limbic lesions in these cases.


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