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Anthem Cracks Down on ER Visits

Insurer will only pay for what it deems an emergency   Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, the nation’s largest health insurer, is expanding its policy of not paying for emergency room (ER) care that it decides was not an emergency.   If you are enrolled in an individual Anthem plan in New Hampshire, Indiana or Ohio, you will soon be joining members in Georgia, Missouri and Kentucky who already have had to think twice before going to the ER.   “Save the ER for emergencies. Or you’ll be responsible for the cost,” Anthem stated in letters to subscribers affected by the policy change. “Anthem’s ER program aims to reduce the trend in recent years of inappropriate use of ERs for nonemergencies,” an Anthem spokesperson said in an email.   Historically, overuse of the emergency dep...

Epilepsy study links mossy brain cells to seizures and memory loss

NIH-funded study in mice suggests loss of mossy cells plays a critical role in both. New findings in a study of mice suggest that a loss of mossy cells may contribute to seizures and memory problems in a form of epilepsy.Ivan Soltesz, Ph.D., Stanford University.   A small group of cells in the brain can have a big effect on seizures and memory in a mouse model of epilepsy. According to a new study in Science, loss of mossy cells may contribute to convulsive seizures in temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) as well as memory problems often experienced by people with the disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Learning stress-reducing techniques may benefit people with epilepsy

Learning techniques to help manage stress may help people with epilepsy reduce how often they have seizures, according to a study published in the February 14, 2018, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.   “Despite all the advances we have made with new drugs for epilepsy, at least one-third of people continue to have seizures, so new options are greatly needed,” said study author Sheryl R. Haut, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Since stress is the most common seizure trigger reported by patients, research into reducing stress could be valuable.”   The study involved people with seizures that did no...

Research reveals how brains develop the right mix of cells

Scientists have discovered a mechanism that controls the mix of cells in the developing brain, which could help us to understand and treat conditions such as epilepsy.   Broadly speaking, our brains contain two types of nerve cells or ‘neurons’: excitatory neurons, which increase activity in other neurons, and inhibitory interneurons, which dampen activity between neurons. The balance between the two forces of excitation and inhibition is thought to be critical for maintaining stable activity in healthy brains, and the disruption of this balance has been implicated in epilepsy, schizophrenia, intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders.

Partnering to improve patient-neurologist dialogue about epilepsy

Digital Health Solutions, Child Neurology Foundation and Greenwich Biosciences begin work to create high-tech risk-screening tool    Experts in academia, patient advocacy and the health care industry have begun a partnership to improve communication about epilepsy between pediatricians, pediatric neurologists and the families of pediatric patients.   Epilepsy is a brain disorder that causes seizures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that almost 3.5 million Americans had active epilepsy in 2015, including 470,000 children. In a 2017 guideline, the American Academy of Neurology urged health care providers to report risks associated with the condition to caregivers of children living with epilepsy. Those risks include sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, or SUD...

Simple blood test could reveal epilepsy risk

A finger-prick blood test to diagnose epilepsy could be available within five years, according to scientists who are using tell-tale molecules called biomarkers to overcome current diagnostic problems and guide treatment.   More than 50 million people are affected by epilepsy worldwide. However, diagnosing the disease remains challenging and treatments are often unsuccessful: only 70% of patients taking anti-epileptic drugs are seizure-free.   “Diagnosis of epilepsy is really difficult,” explained David Henshall, professor of molecular physiology and neuroscience at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. “Seizures are the main clinical symptom for the disease but it is very rare that a doctor will witness the patient having a seizure. This makes epilepsy comp...

A new DNA test will look for 190 diseases in your newborn’s genetic code

But not all parents may want to know the results. Using a swab of saliva from a newborn’s cheek, a new DNA test will probe the baby’s genes to search for 193 genetic diseases, like anemia, epilepsy, and metabolic disorders.

Infant’s scores on Apgar scale can predict risk of cerebral palsy or epilepsy

An infant’s scores on the so-called Apgar scale can predict the risk of a later diagnosis of cerebral palsy or epilepsy. The risk rises with decreasing Apgar score, but even slightly lowered scores can be linked to a higher risk of these diagnoses, according to an extensive observational study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in the esteemed journal The BMJ.

British doctors prepare to implant ‘three-parent’ embryos in women

Doctors at Britain’s Newcastle University have selected two women to bear implanted embryos created from genetic material collected from three parents.   Both women carry gene mutations causing a rare condition known as “myoclonic epilepsy with ragged red fibres,” called “Merrf syndrome” for short.   Mitochondrial Replacement Technology, or MRT, aims to prevent diseases passed through mitochondrial DNA by transferring the mother’s nuclear DNA to a donor egg in which the nucleus has been removed but the mitochondria remains.   Described as “radical therapy” by the UK’s The Guardian, the process was legalized by Britain’s Parliament in 2015 and was met with a huge uproar from religious leaders and ethicists.   Britain’s Newcastle University received a license in March all...

Stopping Epilepsy Before It Starts?

“Being able to identify that a person is likely to develop epilepsy following a brain injury is one of the most important focus areas in modern-day epilepsy research,” says Dr. Laura Lubbers, CURE’s Chief Scientific Officer. “With 3.4 million Americans suffering from epilepsy and seizures in the U.S., this discovery of a predictive biomarker for a certain form of epilepsy could prevent unpredictable seizures from taking over the lives of millions of Americans and their families.”   New research, funded by Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE), has discovered a ‘smoking gun’ biomarker that could result in treatments that stop some epilepsies before they even start.   Using a rat model of brain injury and epilepsy, CURE-funded researcher Dr. Annamaria Vezzani and her team...

Researchers move closer to solving puzzle of 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome

Researchers are closer to solving the puzzle of a complex neurological condition called 15q13.3 microdeletion syndrome. Individuals with this condition are missing a small piece of chromosome 15 that usually contains six genes, but which one of the genes is responsible for the clinical characteristics of patients has not been clear. In this study, a multidisciplinary team of researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital has identified in a mouse model OTUD7A as the gene within the deleted region that accounts for many characteristics of the human condition. The researchers also discovered that mice deficient in the gene Otud7a have fewer dendritic spines, small protrusions involved in neuron communication, which might be related to the neurological deficits. The r...

Engineer Locates Brain’s Seizure Onset Zone In Record Time

University of Houston biomedical engineer is reporting a dramatic decrease in the time it takes to detect the seizure onset zone (SOZ), the actual part of the brain that causes seizures, in patients with epilepsy.   Nearly 30 percent of epilepsy patients are resistant to drug therapy, so they have the option of surgery to remove their seizure onset zones. Most of them opt in, according to assistant professor Nuri Ince, noting the improved quality of life for sufferers.

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