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New Scan A ‘Paradigm Shift’ in Epilepsy Research

By  Senior News Editor

Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on August 27, 2012

New Scan A 'Paradigm Shift' in Epilepsy ResearchAn innovative new study merges engineering and clinical expertise to develop a revolutionary method to diagnose and treat epilepsy patients.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic believe a new type of non-invasive brain scan — taken immediately after a seizure — will provide advanced insight into possible causes and treatments for epilepsy patients.

The new findings could benefit millions of people who are unable to control their epilepsy with medication.

The research is published online in the journal Brain.

Researchers say the study resulted in several significant findings:

  • Important data about brain function can be gathered through non-invasive methods, not only during a seizure, but immediately after a seizure;
  • The frontal lobe of the brain is most involved in severe seizures;
  • Seizures in the temporal lobe are most common among adults. The new technique used in the study will help determine the side of the brain where the seizures originate.

“This is the first-ever study where new non-invasive methods were used to study patients after a seizure instead of during a seizure,” said Dr. Bin He, a biomedical engineering professor in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering and senior author of the study. “It’s really a paradigm shift for research in epilepsy.”

Epilepsy affects nearly 3 million Americans and 50 million people worldwide. Although medications and other treatments help many people of all ages who live with epilepsy, about 1 million people in the U.S. and 17 million people worldwide continue to have seizures that can severely limit their lives.

Medical researchers have always faced the challenge of determining the part of the brain responsible for the seizures. Learning the specific site of the seizure helps physicians determine the best possible treatment.

In the past, most research has focused on studying patients while they were having a seizure, or what is technically known as the “ictal” phase of a seizure. Some of these studies involved invasive methods such as surgery to collect data.

In the new study, researchers used a novel approach by studying the brains of 28 patients immediately after seizures, or what is technically know as the “postictal” phase of a seizure.

They used a specialized type of non-invasive EEG with 76 electrodes attached to the scalp for gathering data in contrast to most previous research that used 32 electrodes. The researchers used specialized imaging technology to gather data about the patient.

The findings may lead to innovative means of locating the brain regions responsible for seizures in individual patients using non-invasive strategies.

Source: University of Minnesota

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