University of California researchers have created a mathematical model describing the electrical storm that rages during a brain seizure. They say the model, to be published in the March 22 print issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of London Interface, but available now to subscribers online, may eventually help neurologists better understand and treat epilepsy.
A lateral skull radiograph of an epilepsy patient with a series of electrodes implanted into his brain by Dr. Nicholas Barbaro at UCSF. The electrodes allowed neurologists to map the electrical activity produced during the patients seizures in preparation for brain surgery. The inset at right highlights the mathematical model of the electrical waves, which was compared with the actual readings from the two electrodes noted. (Image courtesy of UC Regents)
These waves compare observed electrocorticogram (ECoG) readings taken from an epilepsy patient (upper pair of curves) with simulated data from a mathematical model created by UC researchers (lower pair). Within the pairs, the upper ECoG trace was recorded during normal brain activity, while the lower ECoG trace was recorded during a seizure. The results of the simulated data are very similar to the observed readings. (Image by Mark Kramer, courtesy of UC Regents)
"Were trying to get to the underlying state of the brain that leads to these seizures," said Mark Kramer, a Ph.D. student in UC Berkeleys Applied Science and Technology Program and lead author of the paper. "Our hope is that the model can highlight potential areas where a seizure can be stopped."
There are several possible causes for the abnormal signaling in epilepsy, including illness, injury, abnormal brain development and an imbalance of the chemical neurotransmitters needed to convey messages in the brain. Some seizures begin in a very specific area of the brain called the "seizure focus" before spreading out, and others, particularly ones linked to genetic causes, appear to start simultaneously in various parts of the brain.
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