Neurons play distinct roles at different stages of epileptic seizures

March 28th, 2011 - 5:30 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 28 (ANI): A new study has found that epileptic seizures begin with extremely diverse neuronal activity - contrary to the classic view that they are characterized by massively synchronized activity.

The investigation by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brown University researchers also observed pre-seizure changes in neuronal activity both in the cells where seizures originate and in nearby cells.

“Our findings suggest that different groups of neurons play distinct roles at different stages of seizures,” says Sydney Cash, of the MGH Department of Neurology, the paper’s senior author.

“They also indicate that it may be possible to predict impending seizures, and that clinical interventions to prevent or stop them probably should target those specific groups of neurons.”

Epileptic seizures have been reported since ancient times, and today 50 million individuals worldwide are affected; but much remains unknown about how seizures begin, spread and end.

This study used a neurotechnology that records the activity of individual brain cells via an implanted sensor the size of a baby aspirin.

The researchers analyzed data gathered from four patients with focal epilepsy - seizures that originate in abnormal brain tissues - that could not be controlled by medication.

The participants had the sensors implanted in the outer layer of brain tissue to localize the abnormal areas prior to surgical removal.

The sensors recorded the activity of from dozens to more than a hundred individual neurons over periods of from five to ten days, during which each patient experienced multiple seizures.

In some participants, the recordings detected changes in neuronal activity as much as three minutes before a seizure begins and revealed highly diverse neuronal activity as a seizure starts and spreads.

The activity becomes more synchronized toward the end of the seizure and almost completely stops when a seizure ends.

The report will appear in Nature Neuroscience. (ANI)

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