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Research

Memory-boosting brain implants are in the works. Would you get one?

Neural prostheses look promising in new studies, though there’s still a lot of work to do.   How far would you go to keep your mind from failing? Would you go so far as to let a doctor drill a hole in your skull and stick a microchip in your brain?   It’s not an idle question. In recent years neuroscientists have made major advances in cracking the code of memory, figuring out exactly how the human brain stores information and learning to reverse-engineer the process. Now they’ve reached the stage where they’re starting to put all of that theory into practice.   Last month two research teams reported success at using electrical signals, carried into the brain via implanted wires, to boost memory in small groups of test patients. “It’s a major milestone in demonstrating...

Repairing a leaky blood-brain barrier in epilepsy

Study of rodent brain capillaries identifies pathway that contributes to blood-brain barrier dysfunction in epilepsy! Blocking the activity of an enzyme that interferes with the blood-brain barrier, contributing to the generation of recurring seizures, may provide a new way to treat epilepsy that is resistant to anti-seizure drugs, according to a study of rats and mice published in JNeurosci.   One-third of people with epilepsy, one of the most common neurological disorders, do not respond well to current treatments for managing seizures. Part of this challenge is that seizures erode the lining of capillaries in the brain that let nutrients in and keeps toxins out. A “leaky” blood-brain barrier, in turn, leads to more seizures. Understanding how this cycle occurs is necess...

Antiepileptic drugs linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia, says research

According to a new study from the University of Eastern Finland and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, DZNE, antiepileptic drugs are associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.   The clinical investigation, led by Heidi Taipale from the University of Eastern Finland, evaluated the data of nearly 100,000 individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease (from Germany and Finland) to see if there was a link between continuous use of antiepileptics and these neurodegenerative diseases and compared it with controls.

Educational Attainment Down With In Utero Exposure to AEDs

Exposure to sodium valproate or a combination of antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in utero is associated with worse attainment on national educational tests for 7-year-olds, according to a study published online March 26 in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry. Arron S. Lacey, from Swansea University Medical School in the United Kingdom, and colleagues identified children born to mothers with epilepsy and linked these children to their national attainment Key Stage 1 (KS1) tests in mathematics, language, and science at age 7. The children were compared with matched children born to mothers without epilepsy.

How to record 1 million neurons in real time

An innovative new method might allow scientists to translate the information coming from more than 1 million neurons at once, as well as decode the activity as it happens.   The brain produces big data like no other organ, but can we tame it?   Over the past few decades, the amount of data produced in everyday life has exploded.

This funky helmet makes brain-scanning more comfortable

It can make scanning kids and patients with movement problems much easier.   See that helmet in the photo up there? That’s not a prop for a new sci-fi/horror flick — it’s a magnetoencephalography (MEG) helmet that can scan the brain and map its activity. MEG machines are used to look for pathological activity in patients with epilepsy and for brain tumor patients’ surgical planning. The machines are typically, humongous, heavy and can’t do their job if subjects don’t stay perfectly still, which means it’s hard to scan kids with epilepsy or people with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders. This helmet designed by scientists from the University of Nottingham and University College London will work even if the patient is moving.

Stanford researchers listen for silent seizures with “brain stethoscope” that turns brain waves into sound

By converting brain waves into sound, even non-specialists can detect “silent seizures” – epileptic seizures without the convulsions most of us expect. When a doctor or nurse suspects something is wrong with a patient’s heart, there’s a simple way to check: put a stethoscope over the heart and listen to the sounds it makes. Doctors and nurses can use the same diagnostic tool to figure out what’s going on with the heart, lungs, stomach and more, but not the brain – although that could change with a new device. Josef Parvizi, PHOTO, a professor of neurology, Chris Chafe, a professor of music, and colleagues have tested a method for detecting seizures that transforms brain waves into sound. (Image credit: School of Medicine) Stanford researchers have developed a “brain stethoscope” that can h...

Can MRI Brain Scans Help Us Understand Epilepsy?

A massive meta-analysis of global MRI imaging data on epilepsy patients seeks to clarify a complicated and mysterious neurological disorder. Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by seizures, which can vary from mild and almost undetectable to severe, featuring vigorous shaking. Almost 40 million people worldwide are affected by epilepsy. Epileptic seizures are caused by an abnormally high level of activity in nerve cells in the brain. A small number of cases have been tied to a genetic defect, and major trauma to the brain (such as an injury or stroke) can also induce seizures. However, for the majority of cases, the underlying cause of epilepsy is not known. In many instances, epilepsy can be treated with the use of anti-convulsant medication. Some people will experience an i...

‘Missing mutation’ found in severe infant epilepsy

CHOP Researchers: Findings may pave way for early protective treatments Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia   Researchers have discovered a “missing mutation” in severe infant epilepsy–long-suspected genetic changes that might trigger overactive, brain-damaging electrical signaling leading to seizures They also found early indications that specific anti-seizure medications might prevent disabling brain injury by controlling epilepsy during a crucial period shortly after birth.

Biologists discover link between protein in brain, seizure suppression

Seizure suppression is the focus of an original research article by two members of the Department of Biology in the College of Arts and Sciences—and they have the pictures to prove it.   James Hewett, associate professor of biology, and Yifan Gong, a Ph.D. candidate in biology and neuroscience, have co-authored an article about a protein in the brain called T-cell intracellular antigen-1 (TIA-1). Their article recently made the cover of the prestigious journal Neuroscience.

MRI device that could enhance medical diagnostics

A Purdue-affiliated startup, MR-Link LLC, is developing a coin-sized, affordable device that once inserted into existing MRI machines could allow researchers and medical professionals to perform multiple imaging scans at once and more efficiently and effectively understand a patient’s physiology.   Ranajay Mandal, a graduate student in Purdue University’s Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering, Nishant Babaria, graduate student in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Zhongming Liu, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and of biomedical engineering, co-founded MR-Link to further develop and commercialize the technology.

Immune Response May Contribute to Pediatric Epilepsy

Irregular concentrations of T-cells in the brain contribute to the development of seizures in pediatric epilepsy, according to a Northwestern Medicine study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.   The experiments suggest anti-inflammatory drugs should be considered for therapy, in addition to the anti-seizure drugs that are typically prescribed, according to Stephen D. Miller, PhD, the Judy Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology and the senior author of the study.

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