Northern Epilepsy Among the Finnish

I would identify myself with the Caucasian race. I know that I am half Finnish, a quarter French and remaining quarter is a mix between British and American Indian. I chose the disease called Northern epilepsy, it is one of a group of disorders known as neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCLs), which are also known as Batten disease. This particular group appears to affect only people of Finnish ancestry. Northern epilepsy is considered to be 1 of around 40 Finish Heritage Diseases — that is unique to those of Finnish ancestry.

Banergee & Hauser (2007)

Accessed July 11

There is definitely a relationship between race, genetics, and health. All races have had to adapt to their unique environment in a multitude of ways. Some adaptions can be large and noticeable like animal husbandry and farming practices and some not so noticeable down to the cellular level like with single mutations on certain genes. Many adaptions, in regards to genetics, are to perpetuate the species and carry the adaptions to the following generations. Race, genetics, and health are all intertwined with each having an effect on the other. Some more so than others. Survival of the fittest anyone? Like the example in class about sickle cell anemia, there was a selective advantage of being carriers, or heterozygotic, for the trait because it provided increased resistance to malaria which was killing much of the population off. This selective advantage led to the increased likelihood (1 in 4) that children were going be born with both mutated copies from mom and dad and be affected with SCA.

Northern epilepsy is autosomally recessive inherited and  affects the nervous system and typically causes progressive problems with vision, movement, and thinking ability. Children with Northern epilepsy appear normal until they begin to develop seizures between the ages of 5 and 10. The seizures increase in frequency until puberty, after which they decline in frequency, but do not disappear. Within 2 to 5 years of the first seizure, the child begins to decline mentally. This decline is progressive and by the age of 30, the person is mentally disabled (an IQ less than 70), regardless of whether the seizures were controlled by medication. Northern epilepsy is the mildest form of NCL. The reason I believe it is so prevalent among the Finns is because while doing some research on Finnish Heritage diseases I read that most of the people who settled across Finland originated from 50-60 families. After the population reached around 50,000 there was a country wide famine and it dropped the total population by around 1/3.  So it is believed that a genetic bottleneck caused the prevalence of this disease.

U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Northern epilepsy.” . (accessed July 11, 2014).

Banerjee, and Hauser. “Incidence and Prevalence.” In Epilepsy: A Comprehensive Text Book . : Lippincott & Wilkins, 2007.


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