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Episodic neurologic disorders: syndromes, genes, and mechanisms.


Many neurologic diseases cause discrete episodic impairment in contrast with progressive deterioration. The symptoms of these episodic disorders exhibit striking variety. Herein we review what is known of the phenotypes, genetics, and pathophysiology of episodic neurologic disorders. Of these, most are genetically complex, with unknown or polygenic inheritance. In contrast, a fascinating panoply of episodic disorders exhibit Mendelian inheritance. We classify episodic Mendelian disorders according to the primary neuroanatomical location affected: skeletal muscle, cardiac muscle, neuromuscular junction, peripheral nerve, or central nervous system (CNS). Most known Mendelian mutations alter genes that encode membrane-bound ion channels. These mutations cause ion channel dysfunction, which ultimately leads to altered membrane excitability as manifested by episodic disease. Other Mendelian disease genes encode proteins essential for ion channel trafficking or stability. These observations have cemented the channelopathy paradigm, in which episodic disorders are conceptualized as disorders of ion channels. However, we expand on this paradigm to propose that dysfunction at the synaptic and neuronal circuit levels may underlie some episodic neurologic entities.

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