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Idiopathic epilepsy has been shown to occur in humans, as well as non-human primates. Seizures can vary in their manifestation, from obvious convulsions to fainting. During a seizure, brain activity becomes abnormally synchronized, which reflects a large, abnormal population of neurons firing as an ensemble. Seizures also generally have a focal region, commonly the medial temporal lobe, from where they can spread to other parts of the brain. Research has been done in many primate species showing that idiopathic epilepsy can occur in nonhuman primates. For instance, the Senegalese baboon is photosensitive and has light-induced seizures (Menini, 1976). Additionally, researchers have induced epilepsy in adult marmosets by injecting pilocarpine (cholinergic agonist) into the temporal lobe; the animals’ pathophysiology closely mirrored that of human temporal lobe epilepsy (Perez-Mendes et al., 2011).
While epilepsy has been seen in captive great apes, such as orangutans and chimpanzees (www.centerforgreatapes.org), there is no conclusive evidence demonstrating epilepsy in wild apes. Further research is required to reliably demonstrate epilepsy in wild great apes.
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