Cortical dysplasia (CD) is now recognized as one of the major causes of pediatric focal neocortical epilepsy, and surgical procedures have been considered early in life. However, the mechanisms involved in seizure generation and intractability in these patients are still unknown. We analyzed with immunocytochemistry for various antibodies the brain tissue from 4 children (10 months to 6 years old) with focal epilepsy due to focal CD in order to study the inhibitory and excitatory circuits in dysplastic areas. Our group had similar histopathological and clinical characteristics. In all patients we found areas of cortical disorganization with dysplastic neurons and balloon cells. We studied distributions of glial cells with glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) and neurons with microtubule-associated protein 2 (MAP-2). Gliosis was present in all cases, and GFAP stained also some balloon cells. Dysplastic neurons were darkly stained by MAP-2, and we also found balloon cells weakly stained with MAP-2 in the same areas where GFAP was positive, suggesting coexpression of neuronal and glial markers in some of these cells. There was an increased expression of glutamate receptors, especially GluR2/3, but also N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors in dysplastic cortex. The inhibitory circuit does not seem to be decreased, rather we notice an increased amount of glutamate-decarboxylase-positive terminals around some of the big neurons. We discuss the possible role of these findings as mechanisms of epilepsy.

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