Greater female than male resilience to mortality and morbidity in the Scn8a mouse model of pediatric epilepsy

Erfan Bahramnejad, Emily R. Barney, Sarah Lester, Aurora Hurtado, Ting Ting Thompson, Joseph C. Watkins, Michael F. Hammer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims: Females and males of all ages are affected by epilepsy; however, unlike many clinical studies, most preclinical research has focused on males. Genetic variants in the voltage-gated sodium channel gene, SCN8A, are associated with a broad spectrum of neurological and epileptic syndromes. Here we investigate sex differences in the natural history of the Scn8a-N1768D knockin mouse model of pediatric epilepsy. Methods: We utilize 24/7 video to monitor juveniles and adults of both sexes to investigate variability in seizure activity (e.g. onset and frequency), mortality and morbidity, response to cannabinoids, and mode of death. We also monitor sleep architecture using a noninvasive piezoelectric method in order to identify factors that influence seizure severity and outcome. Results: Both sexes had nearly 100% penetrance in seizure onset and early mortality. However, adult heterozygous (D/+) females were more resilient as exhibited by the ability to tolerate more seizures over a longer lifespan. Homozygous (D/D) juveniles did not exhibit a sex difference in overall survival. Female estrus cycle was disrupted before seizure onset, while sleep was disrupted in both sexes in association with seizure onset. Females typically died while in convulsive status epilepticus; however, a high proportion of males died while not experiencing behavioral seizures. Only juvenile and adult males benefited from cannabinoid administration. Conclusions: These results support the hypothesis that factors associated with sexual differentiation play a role in the neurobiology of epilepsy and point to the importance of including both sexes in the design of studies to identify new epilepsy therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalInternational Journal of Neuroscience
StateAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Mouse epilepsy model
  • cannabinoids
  • sleep architecture
  • tonic-clonic seizures SUDEP

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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