A study from UT Southwestern has begun delving into research on seizures. Researchers found that through monitoring certain types of brain activity of cells that are responsible for seizures, predicting when seizures will occur is possible. In fact, they are able to make predictions about four minutes before the seizure occurs. Thus far, this has been successful with both mice and with humans. Also, their research has shown that acetate, an edible type of acid, has the potential to prevent seizures, as long as those seizures are predicted far enough in advance.
Before this type of strategy could be used with great effect, there would need to be some type of mobile technology that would be able to measure the brain activity. Still, this is a massive improvement over the current state of the field, which can only provide a prediction for seizures by a couple of seconds. This unpredictability of seizures, for children and adults, is one of the major problems that can cause disruption in peoples’ lives. This new found approach has the potential to help with the issue of daily unpredictability.
A Different Approach
One of the theories that has long been held in this field is that most of the cells in epilepsy patients have mitochondria that are not working properly. This was something that Dr. Juan Pascual and his team from UT Southwestern were able to debunk. Over a decade, they developed a mouse model that let them see the key metabolic effect in the brain and discovered there was only a single type of neuron responsible for the seizures. With an EEG, they were able to focus on the electrical activity of those neurons and were able to then detect upcoming seizures.
By finding the exact types of cells that were responsible, the type of activity for those cells in an EEG became easier to identify and that’s what made the prediction possible. They traced the seizures to the inhibitory neurons that are located near the cortex. It’s their responsibility to make sure the electrical activity in the brain is normal.
The work of the research team has led them to be able to calculate when seizures will occur in mice and in humans with 98% accuracy at least four minutes in advance. The team is hopeful that through refinement they will be able to provide predictions that are even longer than four minutes, as this could be very beneficial for those who suffer from seizures. This research has been tested with pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency, or PDHD, and it’s hoped that the understanding they’ve gained can help to better predict and control other types of epilepsies and mitochondrial disease.
Dr. Pascual’s lab is also looking into other types of epilepsy conditions in an effort to see whether inhibitory neurons located in other parts of the brain are responsible for seizures. If they find that to be the case, it could give some strong evidence as to where scientists should be looking in the brain to find and prevent the misfiring neurons.
What Does the Future Hold?
There is a lot of hope around this type of predictor and treatment, but the researchers caution that more needs to be done to help make the information helpful and useful to patients. They need to find better ways of detecting and tracking the neuron activity when they are away from the lab and they need to have a better way of ensuring that a patient can get the acetate into their system with enough time to help. More research is certainly required.