Epilepsy is a very serious and unfortunately common neurological disease that is not fully understood. Often, epilepsy will be treated using various medications that have been developed over the years. These medications can be very helpful for many people. However, they do not work for everyone. A percentage of patients will have epilepsy that is drug-resistant. In those cases, patients will sometimes undergo surgical treatment to help with the seizures.
Recently, researchers who are working at Carnegie Mellon University found that it was possible to suppress the spread of seizures through the brain based on the amount of pressure in the brain. The study was published in Annals of Neurology. It found that in focal seizures, which start at a single point, it was possible to provide some form of regulation through “push-pull dynamics within the brain.”
The study found that the “imbalance of excitation-inhibition activity within an epileptic network may be a promising biomarker for the secondary generalization of focal seizures.” What does this mean, though, in a practical sense? It simply means that when a medical specialist notices indicators of imbalanced inhibition and excitation in the firing of neurons, it can act as an indicator of whether the seizure will spread.
Researchers have known for some time that drug-resistant focal epilepsy would travel and spread through the brain after it originated at a single point. However, they did not know what it was that might be causing the spread of the focal seizures. The study looked at ways to better understand this. They looked at different frequencies of brain rhythms to see whether it might be a factor. They used a technique called cross-frequency directionality to study 24 patients who had focal drug-resistant epilepsy. They discovered that the aforementioned push-pull dynamic in the brain could “reflect connections in the epileptic network,” which could result in being able to suppress the seizure.
The researchers believe that this is just the beginning of their work and they need to spend quite a bit more time and effort looking further into this area. Ultimately, they do believe that it could help to come up with some additional treatment options for those who are suffering from drug-resistant epilepsy. They believe that the intervention options that are considered should focus on more than just the onset zones of the seizures. They should also consider the surrounding tissues. The hope is that more research into the area could help to provide a path for new treatments in the future.
It is unknown exactly what form the treatments will take, but with further research from this team and others, we can hope it won’t be long before more is known.
While there are a number of researchers working in the field of epilepsy today, there is still much that people do not understand. A part of this is because there needs to be more funding and even more people studying the subject. Another part of the lack of knowledge surrounding epilepsy is because there are multiple types of conditions. Some people are born with epilepsy. Some people only have seizures after they have been through an accident and had a head injury. It can be genetic and it can be caused by outside forces. This means there are many things to study across all of the various types of epilepsy out there.
With every study that is conducted though, it does help to chip away at the mystery of epilepsy. One day, the hope is to find treatments that can work for everyone, and perhaps even a cure.