EEG and Phenylketonuria

EEG and Phenylketonuria
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An electroencephalogram, commonly known as an EEG, is a diagnostic test for assessing brain waves that doctors may use in treating patients with phenylketonuria (PKU).

The technique primarily is used to diagnose seizures, which may occur in up to 50% of PKU patients. However, an EEG also may provide information about developmental delays and behavioral disorders.

The following is more information about EEGs and how they work.

What is an EEG and what does it measure?

An EEG monitors the electrical activity of the brain. During an EEG, clinicians place electrodes at multiple locations on your head. These electrodes measure the activity of nerve cells, which gives doctors an idea of how they are behaving in several parts of the brain.

Each individual nerve cell causes its own electrical activity when it sends messages to other nerve cells. The combination of the electrical activity of many nerve cells becomes large enough that the electrodes can measure them once they pass through the skull and skin of the head.

Doctors can diagnose a number of different conditions by looking at an unusual activity pattern in the brain. For example, EEGs may help diagnose such brain disorders as epilepsy, tumors, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and narcolepsy, a sleep-related disease. Such scans can even tell if the patient is intoxicated.

Why would doctors use EEG in PKU?

Around 50% of PKU patients experience seizures, with up to 25% possibly having generalized seizures that affect the whole brain at once. Neurologists can use the EEG recordings to determine where in the brain seizures might be starting and to develop a treatment plan.

Research also has shown that there may be a relationship between unusual EEG activity and behavioral disorders such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD, oppositional defiant disorder, and generalized anxiety. Such testing also may show autistic behavior in PKU patients.

Unusual EEGs also may be a sign of developmental delays in children with PKU.

Treatment efforts to correct the differences seen in the EEG may be a way to improve development and correct behavioral disorders in people with PKU.

How could PKU cause an unusual EEG?

The exact relationship between PKU and unusual EEG activity is not clear. One idea is that high phenylalanine levels are toxic to nerve cells and lead to damage in the brain. This, in turn, may cause irregular activity that might lead to unusual EEG signals.

Are there any risks?

There are no real risks of undergoing an EEG besides being tired and having possible skin irritation from the electrodes.

In some cases, doctors may try to induce a seizure during an EEG to check for abnormal brain activity. They could do this by asking the patient to change their breathing (hyperventilate) or look at flashing lights.

 

Last updated: Jan. 28, 2021

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Phenylketonuria News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Brian holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. He has co-authored numerous scientific articles based on his previous research in the field of brain-computer interfaces and functional electrical stimulation. He is also passionate about making scientific advances easily accessible to the public.
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Özge has a MSc. in Molecular Genetics from the University of Leicester and a PhD in Developmental Biology from Queen Mary University of London. She worked as a Post-doctoral Research Associate at the University of Leicester for six years in the field of Behavioural Neurology before moving into science communication. She worked as the Research Communication Officer at a London based charity for almost two years.
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Brian holds a Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from Case Western Reserve University and a Bachelors of Science in Biomedical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology. He has co-authored numerous scientific articles based on his previous research in the field of brain-computer interfaces and functional electrical stimulation. He is also passionate about making scientific advances easily accessible to the public.
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