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Christophe BERNARD“Epilepsy as a plasticity (epigenetic?) machine”

Abstract :

Epilepsy often results from an initial insult of the brain.
This insult triggers a chain of events that will ultimately lead to epilepsy, after a seizure-free period that can last decades in human. Experimental models of temporal lobe epilepsy can reproduce this scheme, enabling the study of the underlying mechanisms. Using the pilocarpine and kainic acid models, we show that the initial status epilepticus results in a rapid and complex reorganization of the hippocampal circuitry, leading to the occurrence of pathological activities and cognitive deficits, well before the appearance of epilepsy. We have identified an epigenetic mechanism, which acts as a major switch responsible for the construction of an epileptic brain. Our results suggest the existence of predictive markers of epilepsy and ways to act upon them.

Christophe Bernard is Director of Research 1 at INSERM UMR 751 (Faculté de Médecine Timone, Marseille). After an initial training in theoretical physics and mathematics, he did a Ph.D. on “Theoretical and experimental analysis of cellular activity in the cerebellum”. He then did a Post Doc in Southampton University with Howard Wheal on synaptic plasticity in an experimental model of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. Since then, his activity has been focused on the mechanisms underlying the construction of an epileptic brain. He has been awarded with the Michael Prize in 2007. 

Selected publications

CHAUVIÈRE, M., THINUS-BLANC, C., BARTOLOMEI, F., ESCLAPEZ, M., & BERNARD, C. (2009) Early and persistent cognitive deficits and alterations in network activity during epileptogenesis in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy. J Neuroscience, 29, 5402-10.
BERNARD, C., MILH, M., MOROZOV, T. & BEN-ARI, Y. , Y, FREUND & GOZLAN, H. (2005) Altering cannabinoid signaling during development disrupts neuronal activity. PNAS. 102, 1388-1393.

BERNARD, C., ANDERSON, A., POOLOS, N., BECKER, A., BECK, H. & JOHNSON, D. (2004) Acquired dendritic channelopathy in epilepsy. Science. 305, 532-535.
COSSART, R., DINONCOURT, C., HIRSCH, J.C., BEN-ARI, Y., ESCLAPEZ, M. & BERNARD, C. (2001) GABAergic inhibition in temporal lobe epilepsy: more in somata, less in dendrites. Nature Neuroscience. 4, 52-62.

Andréas Frick