Although there is strong evidence that genetic factors contribute to risk for epilepsy, their role in the determination of syndrome type is less clear. This study was undertaken to address this question. Information related to epilepsy was obtained from twins included in 455 monozygotic and 868 dizygotic pairs ascertained from population-based twin registries in Denmark, Norway and the United States. Syndrome type was determined based on medical record information and detailed clinical interviews and classified using the International Classification Systems for the Epilepsies and Epileptic Syndromes. Concordance rates were significantly increased in monozygotic versus dizygotic pairs for all major syndrome groups except localization-related cryptogenic epilepsy. Among generalized epilepsies, genetic factors were found to play an important role in the determination of childhood absence, juvenile absence, juvenile myoclonic, and idiopathic generalized epilepsy; and to a lesser degree for epilepsies with grand mal seizures on awakening. Among localization-related epilepsies, genetic factors contributed to risk for localization-related idiopathic and symptomatic syndromes overall, but did not appear to play an important role in determining risk for frontal, occipital or temporal lobe epilepsy. These results suggest that, while genetic factors contribute to risk for major syndrome types, determined when possible, their contribution to risk for localization-related syndrome sub-types, as defined by specific focality, may be modest.
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