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Research

Your neurons register familiar faces, whether you notice them or not

When people see an image of a person they recognize—the famous tennis player Roger Federer or actress Halle Berry, for instance—particular cells light up in the brain. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on September 21 have found that those cells light up even when a person sees a familiar face or object but fails to notice it. The only difference in that case is that the neural activity is weaker and delayed in comparison to what happens when an observer consciously registers and can recall having seen a particular image.

Epilepsy drugs pose risks to developing brains, study suggests

Some drugs used to treat epilepsy harm children who are exposed to them in the womb or through breast milk, a new analysis of the literature suggests1. The drug valproate is particularly risky, boosting the likelihood of autism and other developmental problems up to 17-fold. The study is the first to compare the relative risks of taking various epilepsy drugs during pregnancy. Some of these medications are also used to treat bipolar disorder and migraines.

Safety of Antiepileptic Drugs During Pregnancy

A study investigated the association between maternal epilepsy, antiepileptic drugs used during pregnancy, and perinatal outcomes since there is little data comparing perinatal outcomes with or without antiepileptic drug use during pregnancy. Epilepsy is a chronic disorder marked by unpredictable, recurring seizures caused by disruptions in nerve cell activity in the brain.  During a seizure, any brain function can be affected.  Once diagnosed, people usually begin treatment with antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) to reduce the number and duration of their seizures.  However, other health problems such as depression, insomnia, stomach upset, osteoporosis, or eye damage seem to be more prevalent amongst epileptics and it is unknown whether these are related to the disease, the medications, or both....

Pioneering research reveals how altered brain networks can lead to seizures

An international team of scientists, led by mathematicians from the University of Exeter’s Living Systems Institute, have developed a ground-breaking new method that can identify regions of brain tissue most likely to generate seizures in people with epilepsy. The innovative new method, which utilizes mathematical modelling, offers the potential to complement existing clinical approaches and could lead to enhanced surgical outcomes. The new research is published in leading scientific journal, PLOS Computational Biology. Epilepsy, which affects around 1 in 100 people worldwide, is predominantly treated by a range of medications. However, in around a third of cases people do not experience adequate seizure control through drugs and alternative therapies are sought. In some instances su...

3D printed brain-like tissue for neurotransmitter production

Armed with a 3D printer and bio-ink made from stem cells, Australian scientists have created brain-like tissue in a breakthrough research. The unique bio-ink is composed of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) – possessing the same properties as embryonic stem cells – capable of transforming into any cell (and organ) in the body.

New method identifies brain regions most likely to cause epilepsy seizures

Scientists have developed a new way to detect which areas of the brain contribute most greatly to epilepsy seizures, according to a PLOS Computational Biology study. The strategy, devised by Marinho Lopes of the University of Exeter and colleagues, could help surgeons select specific brain areas for removal to stop seizures.

Estrogen-mediated brain protection directly linked to intake of of fatty acids found in oils

Scientists are increasingly appreciating estrogen’s role in brain health. Now for the first time, production of estrogen in the brain has been directly linked to the presence of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is found in abundance in fish oils and is also synthesized from alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in some vegetable-based oils.

Zynerba’s cannabis-based epilepsy gel fails in phase 2 trial

Zynerba Pharmaceuticals has reported that its cannabis-based epilepsy gel ZYN002 (cannabidiol [CBD] gel) has failed to meet the primary point in a phase 2 clinical trial. The trial dubbed as STAR 1 was held in 188 adult epilepsy patients with focal seizures across 14 sites in Australia and New Zealand. When compared to placebo, ZYN002 during the treatment period could not show a statistically significant decrease in focal seizures in comparison to the baseline period for either the high or low dose cohorts. STAR expands to Synthetic Transdermal Cannabidiol for the Treatment of Epilepsy. The patients in the phase 2 trial were randomized to be treated during a 12-week period for every 12 hours with either 195mg of ZYN002 4.2% CBD gel, 97.5mg of ZYN002 4.2% CBD gel or placebo gel. The primary...

Compound derived from marijuana interacts with anti-epileptic drugs

New research published in Epilepsia, a journal of the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE), suggests that an investigational neurological treatment derived from cannabis may alter the blood levels of commonly used anti-epileptic drugs. It is important for clinicians to consider such drug interactions during treatment of complex conditions.

Neuroscientists develop new forms of diagnosis and therapy for temporal lobe epilepsy

What if you fell off your bicycle today and ten years later you developed epilepsy? Relationships like this might appear far-fetched but are entirely possible, say Freiburg researchers. Using the latest MRI scanning procedures, Prof. Dr. Carola Haas, Department of Neurosurgery, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Hennig, Department of Radiology, and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Egert, Department of Microsystems Engineering (MST) of the University of Freiburg, in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Jan Korvink of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, have shown how certain disorders of the hippocampus can initiate a drug resistant epilepsy. The team has discovered biomarkers that – if used for screening – could massively improve treatment options for epilepsy. The researchers have published their results in the onlin...

Genetic Testing Can Help Pinpoint Epilepsy Earlier

A new study supports routine genetic testing for epilepsy in young children with seizures. “Precision medicine means nothing without precision diagnosis, and we can now provide precision diagnosis,” said study lead author Anne Berg, of the Stanley Manne Children’s Research Institute at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

Pairnomix, StemoniX Develop Epilepsy Model in Search for New Anti-seizure Drugs

Pairnomix has joined efforts with StemoniX to develop a lab-based model of epileptic seizures using so-called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). The model, which researchers refer to as a “seizure-in-a-dish” model system, will allow scientists to study seizures at a network level. In this way, they can use the model to screen for anti-epileptic drugs in a fast and easy manner. Minneapolis-based Pairnomix has expertise in epilepsy models, while San Diego-based StemoniX has developed the microBrain Platform. The model mirrors tissue architecture in the brain, with nerve cells connecting to each other through synapses, forming functional networks. For brain diseases such as epilepsy, iPSCs are invaluable research tools. These cells can be derived from skin tissue, and are forced to backt...

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