Purdue University Graduate School
EthanBiggsThesisv3.pdf (66.25 MB)

On the Role of, and Intervention in, Oxygen-Conserving Reflexes in Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy

Download (66.25 MB)
posted on 2022-08-09, 19:19 authored by Ethan N BiggsEthan N Biggs

Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is a fatal complication of epilepsy that kills 1̃2 of every 10,000 epileptic patients every year. SUDEP has proven difficult to study because it frequently occurs unobserved and cannot be predicted. What limited clinical data exists suggests that SUDEP occurs as a cardiorespiratory collapse immediately following a seizure. In this work, I explore how a group of autonomic reflexes termed collectively as “oxygen‐conserving reflexes (OCRs)” lead to sudden death when activated during seizures. I also demonstrate multiple physiological parallels between the OCR‐mediated deaths that I report and the clinical data on cases of human SUDEP. Additionally, I explore the neural pathway underlying OCRs, identify the carotid body as a potential target for intervention, and demonstrate the efficacy of electroceutical intervention in reducing the mortality risk of OCR activation during seizures. This work seeks to both offer a neural explanation for SUDEP as well as present a promising target and means for potential intervention.


NIH SPARC (OD023847)


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Biomedical Engineering

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Pedro Irazoqui

Additional Committee Member 2

John Jefferys

Additional Committee Member 3

Ben Gaston

Additional Committee Member 4

Maria Dadarlat