With Neurology-on-Wheels, Doctor Takes Free Epilepsy & Stroke Treatment to Rural Andhra

With Neurology-on-Wheels, Doctor Takes Free Epilepsy & Stroke Treatment to Rural Andhra

Dr Bindu Menon’s foundation runs an initiative called Neurology-on-Wheels, offering free healthcare services to remote areas since 2013. She is also noted for her research in the field of epilepsy, strokes, and other neurological diseases.

Sometime in early 2008, Dr Bindu Menon was dropping her daughter to school when other parents and teaching faculty began crowding around her in the corridor, seeking advice on different neurological conditions. This wasn’t the first time it had happened to the neurologist serving as an associate professor at a medical college in Tirupathi, Andhra Pradesh.

This was a common occurrence for the good doctor.

“While talking to these people, I found a lack of awareness about neurological conditions, as well as my inability to answer all their queries properly. So, I thought it would be advisable to create awareness among the public about neurological disorders because in general people feel that they are untreatable,” explains Dr Menon, who is currently serving as a professor and head of the neurology department at Apollo Specialty Hospitals in Nellore, in a conversation with The Better India.

“For example, once someone has a stroke, they believe that the patient is bedridden for life. Or that symptoms like back or neck pains are nothing to worry about. During my conversations with them, I also heard people treating epilepsy as a serious social stigma and saying individuals with that condition can’t get married or have a normal life, etc. These were some of the beliefs the general public had when I interacted with them on a non medical platform,” adds Dr Menon.

During her final year in Tirupathi, Dr Menon embarked on a journey towards raising awareness about neurological conditions among the public, starting with schools and colleges. Even after moving to Nellore later that year, she continued on this journey. So far, she has completed around 210 awareness campaigns, which includes schools, colleges and a myriad of different social organizations in the state.

But this isn’t all she has done.

Under the aegis of her non-profit Dr Bindu Menon Foundation, she has organized free treatment camps for hundreds of underprivileged patients with epilepsy, stroke and other conditions, while also pioneering a fascinating initiative called ‘Neurology on Wheels’.

Here, the celebrated neurologist from Kerala travels to deprived villages in the rural interiors of Nellore district with a team of volunteers to raise awareness about common neurological conditions, screen and treat them, and distribute free medication in certain cases.

“We have now organized more than 200 free medical camps across 44 villages through our Neurology on Wheels initiative. We have educated and screened around 12,000 people now. The number of patients we detected in these villages — who were not on treatment but received counselling, medication and referral to the nearest health center from me — has been 140 for stroke, 105 for epilepsy, 361 for hypertension and 133 for diabetes,” claims Dr Menon.

Besides Neurology on Wheels, in 2016 she launched Epilepsy Help, an app which sends alerts to families of epileptic patients in emergencies like sudden seizures. During the peak of the pandemic, she also launched a Stroke Help app for patients unable to reach their doctors. These apps, however, need further work to align with the privacy norms of app stores.

Her foundation has also recently started the EDuWAND (Educating Women about Neurological Diseases) project with the goal to address both the burden of stroke for women and to leverage their role within the family. The EDuWAND project involves targeted education on stroke for women and focuses on increasing their participation in the drive to reduce the stroke burden.

‘We have seen a change’

Dr Menon does not come from a family of doctors. Born and raised in Bhopal, her father was an engineer and mother, a homemaker. As a child, she had a penchant of helping the needy.

“I would knock on doors and collect charitable donations and send the funds to Help Age India, an organization helping the disadvantaged elderly. Quite early in my life, I realized that my calling is for medicine,” she recalls.

Upon arriving in Nellore in late 2008, Dr Menon joined the Department of Neurology at Narayana Medical College and Hospital as a faculty member, eventually becoming head of department during her near six-year tenure there. It’s here where the seeds were sown for the Dr Bindu Menon Foundation, which she would launch in 2013.

There was also another incident that would change the way she looked at medicine.

On one Saturday evening, while she was settling for dinner, her phone rang. She picked up the phone and rushed to the emergency room. After arriving at the hospital, she headed straight for the hospital’s red zone. There, she was briefed about an active 65-year-old gentleman who had a stroke several hours ago. He had completely lost movement on his right side.

Dr Menon did a thorough neurological examination, checking his blood tests and scans as well. After setting down the treatment, she sat down with his relatives and explained the prognosis and long-term outcome. After a long discussion, they left and thanked her.

“I thought my job here was done. As I walked out of the emergency room, however, I heard someone calling me. I turned back to find his granddaughter, a teenager who was obviously crestfallen from the incident. She approached me and asked me two questions. Could we have averted this event? Did we delay in bringing him to the hospital? In a guarded tone, I said yes this event could have been averted and that they did delay in bringing him to the hospital. But I also pacified her saying that your grandfather will be well and recover,” she recalls.

There was an uncertainty in the air as they parted ways. Dr Menon had realized that her job here was far from done. More needed to be done for patients like him.

“When you join a medical college, you receive people from all strata of society, including people from below poverty line and across the whole household income spectrum. There is a journey a doctor embarks on with a patient, especially when they have chronic diseases. When I left after six years, they would ask me, ‘What will happen to us?’. Although I said there would be somebody else, they had obviously developed a bonding with me,” recalls Dr Menon.

“During my time at Narayana, I thought about starting my own foundation where I could to the best of my capacity treat some of these patients, see them monthly, give them medications depending on how much it is possible, counsel them and see that their neurological health is well taken care of. In August 2013, I started my foundation,” she adds.

Following the launch of the Dr Bindu Menon Foundation, the doctor continued her regular awareness programmes. More importantly, however, she started a monthly medical camp at her foundation’s premises with a couple of patients initially. She didn’t advertise it, but more people from lower income households began attending these camps purely through word of mouth. Today, 150-200 patients attend these monthly medical camps.

“These include patients who have been coming to see me since 2013. Almost 60%-70% have started going to work, or in the case of the elderly, getting back on their feet, functioning on their own, and walking around independently with a walking stick or other devices,” claims Dr Menon.

“We have seen a change in their health. Some of them suffered a stroke when they were young. Others were persons with epilepsy. So, we motivated them to get back to work with medications. If they are elderly, they can manoeuvre themselves around the house so that there need not be a caregiver who is bound to that person. That caregiver can now get back to work,” she adds.

Dr Menon conducts treatment for these patients in her own clinic in the town premises. This is the same place where she runs her foundation and other activities.

Crucial healthcare on wheels

Nellore district has neurological patients from several small and remote villages, but they can hardly come to a city hospital. During her camps, Dr Menon would keep reminding her patients to reach the hospital in four and a half hours for a stroke. But when she first visited some of these villages, she realised that barely anyone could come to the city hospital for treatment in four and a half hours. The reasons for this were plenty.

“One, they have to understand the disease, be aware of it, then they have to decide where to go for treatment, and come to a neurologist. It’s impossible for any person from these remote villages to follow our recommendation of visiting a hospital four hours after a stroke,” she says.

When she used to organise these camps in the city, several patients would say they had a family member in their village suffering from a given neurological condition. But she was told that they couldn’t afford to come into the city.

“Also, there were many people in these parts with so many diseases that they didn’t even know whether they should go to a neurologist or not. That’s when we felt that we should have an outreach programme. These people are reaching us in the city, but then there are so many people out there who probably don’t even know what’s happening,” she recalls.

In medicine, it’s a common saying that prevention is better than cure. But there is also something called primordial prevention—preventing the risk factor.

“Primordial prevention is when we visit schools and colleges, and tell them about the diet, exercises they can do, salt intake and all the other things they can do to ensure hypertension, diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol don’t spiral out of control,” explains Dr Menon. In 2015, she started going to these villages because these rural patients couldn’t reach her camps.

Reach, teach, treat and care

At the heart of Dr Menon’s ‘Neurology on Wheels’ initiative is the motto, “we reach, we teach, we treat and we care”.

The first thing the foundation does is reach underprivileged patients in these remote and deprived villages. This is followed by ‘teach’. “When we arrive at these villages, nearly all residents turn up irrespective of whether they’re suffering from a neurological problem or not. This creates a captive audience for us. Of course, if I say something one time, it may not get through to all of them. But even if what I say touches 10% of the residents there, we would have created some impact because diseases like stroke are devastating,” explains Dr Menon.

In that ‘teach’ programme, she takes a full lecture with a mic and sound system. She tells residents about how they can prevent hypertension, diabetes, the impact of smoking and alcohol, how to detect conditions like stroke and epilepsy, their symptoms, the time window they have for treatment, etc. She also talks about where the nearest primary healthcare centre (PHC) is located, the doctor available there, where they should go for a checkup, how they should perform first aid in the event of an epilepsy attack, how to proceed with treatment, etc.

Then her team starts screening patients for height, weight, hypertension, and diabetes, and takes note of the medications they’re taking or not.

“Inside our medical bus, we have a couch, sitting area and all my instruments for neurological examination. We have a view box for any X-rays or CT scans that may have been done in the past. We screen them for hypertension, diabetes, stroke, epilepsy and other neurological disorders.”

“Following our diagnosis, we will give them medications for a month or two weeks and tell them what lifelong medications they should be taking. We also ask them to visit the nearest PHC and they should continue to visit them for these diseases, otherwise the repercussions can be bad,” she says.

If you have the will

Starting out, Dr Menon and her team were not revisiting the villages they had already visited. But now they have started a programme along with the World Federation of Neurology, where they are trying to assess their intervention in a village.

“We visit a village every three months and keep enhancing awareness, detection programmes for stroke, epilepsy, transient ischemic attacks and any small seizure event that has happened, besides trying to find out whether they’re taking the medications properly. We do so either in person or ask the local PHC doctor and ASHA worker present there to organise an one on one interaction,” explains Dr Menon.

In addition, the PHC doctor and ASHA worker also ask them about their current state of health or whether any new symptoms have emerged, etc.

For her incredible work, Dr Menon received the Mridha Spirit of Neurology Humanitarian Award and the AB Baker Teacher Recognition Award from the American Academy of Neurology in 2022. In 2021, the World Stroke Organization honoured her with the Fellowship of the World Stroke Organization (FWSO). In 2018, they felicitated her with the World Stroke Award for Individual Achievement for her “impressive programme to reach out to populations in rural communities to raise awareness of stroke prevention and to identify stroke risk among the population”, besides “increasing access to treatment for people at risk of stroke”.

A part of the funding comes from Dr Menon’s own pocket. Funding for the monthly camps comes from the CSR funds of some companies. For ‘Neurology on Wheels’, her foundation runs a funded project from the World Federation of Neurology.

“We often give them two-weeks worth of medication. They have to get themselves checked after two weeks and then they take the medication. But I do have 140 stroke patients who have required one month treatment and similarly for 105 of my epilepsy patients,” explains Dr Menon.

ssisting her in these endeavours are local volunteers and nursing students from local colleges. The funding she needs comes from the fact that her team travels in a bus and pays fuel costs.

“If you have the will, you do not really need to worry too much about money. Good work needs good clinical acumen, good charting out of patients and giving them the treatment that is needed,” she adds.

 

Source: thebetterindia.com, Richen Norbu Wangchuck

 

Health Beat: Safe driving for people with epilepsy

Health Beat: Safe driving for people with epilepsy

There’s a huge sense of freedom when you’re behind the wheel, but it’s also a skill that requires you to avoid distractions.

This can prove difficult for people with epilepsy.

Medication or deep brain stimulation may control the severity of seizures, but brief periods of abnormal brain activity are difficult to detect.

“We have a real challenge when people don’t think they’re having these episodes anymore,” said Yale School of Medicine neuroscientist Dr. Hal Blumenfeld.

Those episodes are what doctors call spike wave discharges.

Dr. Blumenfeld and colleagues gathered information from a large group of patients who were tested with EEG during a spike wave discharge to see if they could respond normally. Then they fed that information into a computer.

“Basically, we have to teach it to tell the difference between brainwave activity that’s safe and brainwave activity that’s not safe for driving and for responding,” explained Blumenfeld.

Presently, doctors use behavioral testing to determine if a patient can drive.

Using AI, researchers say 65 percent of patients cleared by behavioral testing would not be able to drive under the AI test, showing that EEG testing may be a more accurate way to predict driver safety.

Dr. Blumenfeld said more studies with information from an even larger number of patients would make the artificial intelligence more accurate.

EEG testing can be done in a doctor’s office, which Blumenfeld said would make it easily accessible for patients.

 

Source: wfmz.com, Melanie Falcon

Growing up with Epilepsy: Changing Docs as you go

Growing up with Epilepsy: Changing Docs as you go

 

Almost half a million American kids live with epilepsy and another 10 to 20 million have a chronic illness. As these younger patients grow up, many will need to start treatment with adult specialists, putting them at risk of falling through the cracks. Ivanhoe has more on transitioning care and learning to live in an adult world.

Clara Hartman was in high school when she was diagnosed with epilepsy.

“I didn’t have my first grand mal seizure until I was 16ish, around there.” Clara says.

High school is tough enough for a teen and sometimes even tougher for kids with chronic illness.

Clara says, “I definitely drew back, kind of isolated myself.”

Doctor Emily Nurre leads a specialized program helping teens with epilepsy manage their condition.

“It’s a time for high, you know, no-shows, missing visits just because it’s all new to them. That can leave them open to gaps in care and gaps in getting their medications.” Explains Doctor Nurre.

Doctor Nurre suggests parents start moving their children toward a transition in care years before the change is actually necessary.

Doctor Nurre says, “Nationally it’s recommended to start around 12 for any kind of chronic illness.”

Encourage the child to interact with doctors independently. Encourage age-appropriate talks about concerns that are specific to teens and young adults, like driving … and family planning.

“They’ve been on a medicine that may have some birth defects if used in pregnancy. Then we bring that up and we talk about would you want to consider switching?” says Doctor Nurre.

For Clara, transitioning to a new doctor brought an additional challenge. Anxiety made it tough to initiate conversation.

“So, I had to get over that in order to communicate with my doctors.” Explains Clara.

Now, eight years later, Clara is almost completely seizure free, living on her own, and is studying to be a clinical psychologist to help other kids with chronic illnesses.

The University of Cincinnati developed the epilepsy transition clinic in 2019. Doctor Nurre says many of the steps they take to help teens adjust to their adult doctor can be applied to teens with other chronic conditions. Parents looking for additional tips to help their child transition their care can find more information on the child neurology foundation website.

  Source: ky3.com, Jackie Garrity, Cyndy McGrath

IU opens research institute addressing stigma around mental health

IU opens research institute addressing stigma around mental health

Irsay Institute, funded by gift from Jim Irsay family, will further university’s research and training

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — A new research institute at Indiana University, made possible by a $3 million donation from the Jim Irsay family, has formally launched its mission to become a leading national center for addressing the stigma surrounding mental illness and other health issues such as HIV, epilepsy, cancer, dementia and addiction.

At a kickoff event for the new Irsay Institute on Thursday, IU President Pamela Whitten joined Kalen Jackson, vice chair and owner of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and Irsay family representative, and Bernice Pescosolido, Distinguished Professor of Sociology in the IU College of Arts and Sciences and director of the institute, to celebrate the opening of the institute’s newly renovated home in Morrison Hall on the IU Bloomington campus.

“The transformative research taking place at the Irsay Institute will allow IU to strengthen interdisciplinary research addressing stigma and other key health issues, while bringing several impactful campus-wide efforts under one umbrella,” Whitten said. “We are thankful to the Irsay family for their generous donation and commitment to equipping IU researchers to confront these pressing issues.”

The Irsay Institute consists of a founding faculty of more than 20 sociomedical scientists who are building connections between existing health-related social science programs, centers and researchers on the IU Bloomington campus and at the IU School of Medicine to target innovations that translate into enhanced training, workforce development, policy change and program success.

Along with targeting stigma, Irsay Institute researchers are tackling issues of substance use disorder, sexuality and reproduction, the health care system, global health, and the effects of climate on health. While having a rich array of research areas, the Irsay Institute has a special connection to advancing the goals of the Colts’ Kicking the Stigma initiative, an effort to raise awareness about mental health and remove the stigma often associated with mental health disorders.

“When we decided to launch Kicking the Stigma and address the mental health crisis in our state and country, we learned quickly that some of the nation’s best research was already taking place right here at Indiana University,” Jackson said. “That’s why we’re so honored to partner with IU to support this vital work so future generations can approach mental health disorders with better understanding and compassion and have more outlets and resources to help those who are suffering.”

The Irsay Institute will further advance IU’s groundbreaking research and training on the stigma that pervades many health challenges, such as mental illness and reproductive problems, and deprives individuals of equitable treatment and adequate resources. It will also train more graduates to prepare them to enter the mental health field and will work toward local and national policy agendas related to mental health and stigma.

Since announcing its creation in 2021, the Irsay Institute has already made strides in tackling these issues. The institute has joined Whitten’s Student Mental Health Initiative, aimed at student mental health and well-being, and is expanding the evidence-based U Bring Change to Mind Program, created by Pescosolido, to all IU campuses.

At the national level, the Irsay Institute is partnering with organizations such as Project Healthy Minds, the Huntsman Mental Health Institute, Bring Change to Mind and the World Psychiatric Association’s Together Against Stigma program to enhance research on stigma around mental health.

Research being done through the institute also received two federal grants from the National Institutes of Health. The first funds researchers’ work with high schools in Colorado to understand the social roots of suicide clusters and help schools develop safety systems to prevent suicide and school shootings. The second is examining how social networks can affect healthy aging and slow down the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s.

With the support of the Colts and the university, Pescosolido said the Irsay Institute is primed to become a national leader in pressing health and health care issues that impact the daily lives of Hoosiers and people throughout the world.

“We are grateful for the vision and generosity of the Colts, the continued support of IU for the social sciences, and the graciousness of those people and partners that participate in our research to improve health,” said Pescosolido, director of IU’s Indiana Consortium for Mental Health Services Research and an elected member of both the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences. “Through this collaboration, we have been able to develop new opportunities to escalate our scientific, policy and community efforts to improve the health of Indiana and the U.S. more broadly. With our new space in Morrison Hall and continued partnership with the Indianapolis Colts, our researchers, teachers and students will be able to push further and faster.”

 

Source: news.iu.edu, April Toler

 

Researchers uncover one way CBD stops seizures

Researchers uncover one way CBD stops seizures

A new US study, published in the journal Neuron, found that CBD affects a particular molecule in the body that’s involved in brain signaling.

In November 2018, it became legal to prescribe CBD in the UK. Since then, one CBD medicine – Epidyolex – has been legalized for use in epilepsy in the UK.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) also recently approved CBD for use in people with tuberous sclerosis complex, with official guidance expected this month.

Until recently, the way CBD works to help control seizures hasn’t been well understood.

The new study, by Evan Rosenberg and colleagues, found that CBD blocks a molecule called LPI (lysophosphatidylinositol).

LPI has been found to strengthen nerve signals in the hippocampus of the brain, which could lead to seizures. The study has also suggested, for the first time, that LPI weakens signals that stop seizures.

This may explain why CBD blocking this molecule helps to reduce seizures.

The authors said this research adds to our understanding of the way seizures start and can offer another route for new treatment development.

 

Source: epilepsy.org.uk,

The Mozart Effect Myth: Listening to Music Does Not Help Against Epilepsy

The Mozart Effect Myth: Listening to Music Does Not Help Against Epilepsy

Summary: Researchers say there is no reliable scientific evidence to support the claim that listening to Mozart’s Sonata KV448 can provide relief from symptoms of epilepsy as previously claimed.

Source: University of Vienna

Over the past fifty years, there have been remarkable claims about the effects of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s music.

Reports about alleged symptom-alleviating effects of listening to Mozart’s Sonata KV448 in epilepsy attracted a lot of public attention. However, the empirical validity of the underlying scientific evidence has remained unclear.

Now, University of Vienna psychologists Sandra Oberleiter and Jakob Pietschnig show in a new study published in the prestigious journal Nature Scientific Reports that there is no evidence for a positive effect of Mozart’s melody on epilepsy.

In the past, Mozart’s music has been associated with numerous ostensibly positive effects on humans, animals, and even microorganisms. For instance, listening to his sonata has been said to increase the intelligence of adults, children, or fetuses in the womb.

Even cows were said to produce more milk, and bacteria in sewage treatment plants were said to work better when they heard Mozart’s composition.

However, most of these alleged effects have no scientific basis. The origin of these ideas can be traced back to the long-disproven observation of a temporary increase in spatial reasoning test performance among students after listening to the first movement allegro con spirito of Mozart’s sonata KV448 in D major.

More recently, the Mozart effect experienced a further variation: Some studies reported symptom relief in epilepsy patients after they had listened to KV448.

However, a new comprehensive research synthesis by Sandra Oberleiter and Jakob Pietschnig from the University of Vienna, based on all available scientific literature on this topic, showed that there is no reliable evidence for such a beneficial effect of Mozart’s music on epilepsy.

They found that this alleged Mozart effect can be mainly attributed to selective reporting, small sample sizes, and inadequate research practices in this corpus of literature.

“Mozart’s music is beautiful, but unfortunately, we cannot expect relief from epilepsy symptoms from it” conclude the researchers.

About this Mozart Effect and epilepsy research news

Abstract

Unfounded authority, underpowered studies, and non-transparent reporting perpetuate the Mozart effect myth: A multiverse meta-analysis

In recent years, an ostensible Mozart effect, suggesting beneficial influences of listening to the sonata KV448 on epilepsy, has been extensively covered in popular media outlets. However, the evidential value of such a potential effect seems unclear.

Here, we present the first formal meta-analysis on this topic, based on k = 8 studies (N = 207).

Further published studies that met our inclusion criteria had to be omitted due to insufficient reporting and author non-responsiveness on data requests.

In three independent analyses, we observed non-significant trivial-to-small summary effects for listening to Mozart KV448 or other musical stimuli on epilepsy or other medical conditions (g range: 0.09–0.43).

Bias and sensitivity analyses suggested that these effects were likely inflated and non-trivial effects were driven by isolated leverage points. Multiverse analyses conformed to these results, showing inconsistent evidential patterns.

Low primary study power and consequently lacking evidential value indicates that there is only little reason to suspect a specific Mozart effect. In all, listening to music, let alone a specific kind of sonata, does not appear to have any beneficial effect on epilepsy.

Unfounded authority, underpowered studies, and non-transparent reporting appear to be the main drivers of the Mozart effect myth.

 

Source: neurosciencenews.com, Veronika Schallhart, University of Vienna

Novel deep brain simulation approach for treating drug-refractory epilepsy

Novel deep brain simulation approach for treating drug-refractory epilepsy

Epilepsy is a chronic brain disorder characterized by recurrent seizures. About 30 percent of epilepsy patients are known to be drug-refractory, which means they do not respond to drug treatments. Temporal lobectomy of the epileptogenic zone can alleviate or terminate symptoms but surgical resection is not suitable for all patients and neurological damage after surgery can cause motor paralysis or speech impairment, urgently needing a new effective treatment.

Recently, a joint team of researchers from POSTECH and Samsung Medical Center developed a therapeutic modality to treat intractable epilepsy by stimulating the deep part of the brain, personalized to each patient’s individual brain structure. The findings from the study were published in Nature Communications.

Recently, deep brain stimulation (DBS) has been introduced as an alternative to the surgical approach for intractable epilepsy. DBS is a novel medical technology that implants electrodes deep in the brain to deliver electrical stimulation to the source of the seizures. It can reduce the frequency of seizures by more than 70% and reduce their intensity.

However, conventional DBS has failed to reflect individual brain structures and applied stimuli in a uniform manner. As a result, broadly applied stimuli spread beyond the target tissues, evoking pain, increased depression, and other side effects. It also had a disadvantage of shortening battery life.

To overcome these issues, the joint team proposed a sequential narrow-field (SNF) stimulation method in a rat model. The hippocampus, the most prevalent seizure focus in temporal lobe epilepsy, is large and elongated. The sensors detect when a seizure occurs in the hippocampus, and focus low-intensity stimulation energy on that region only.

The SNF stimulation developed in this study accurately detects the onset of seizures and immediately alleviate symptoms and only stimulate the target area in the hippocampus without affecting other neural tissues. For this, SNF stimulation shows promise to a medical solution that is based on bioelectronic technology that is safer and more effective than the conventional DBS methods, which can be applied to other neurological diseases.

Professor Young-Min Shon (Department of Neurology) who is the director of Biomedical Engineering Research Center at the Samsung Medical Center explained, “This method can be easily applied clinically and promises to become an optimal treatment for intractable epilepsy in the future.”

On the significance of the study, the lead investigator Professor Sung-Min Park commented, “This study can be applied to the development of more precise and personalized medical devices as a ‘future convergence medical solution research’ in which engineering and medicine converge in the areas related to high-level brain stimulation. It is a highly practical engineering-based medical solution that is clinically applicable thanks to the collaboration with Samsung Medical Center ‘

This research conducted with the support from the project ‘developing a fully autonomous neural reset system to overcome intractable chronic diseases with neural homeostasis imbalances’, part of the STEAM (Pioneer Research Center) program.

 

Source: sciencedaily.com, Pohang University of Science & Technology

Brainerd woman releases memoir to raise epilepsy awareness

Brainerd woman releases memoir to raise epilepsy awareness

Barbara J. Mack, Brainerd, sometimes wonders where life may have taken her if she hadn’t had a car accident as a teen. 

For most of her life, she and her doctors have wondered which came first, the car accident or the seizure. No one will ever know, despite countless medical tests and appointments throughout Mack’s life.

Mack decided to tell the story in her recently released book, “The Hand I’ve Been Dealt.” Mack’s goal is to try to raise awareness about epilepsy. “People talk about cancer and diabetes, but they never talk about epilepsy,” stated Mack. “People used to think of someone with epilepsy as a freak and feel scared of that person. I’m glad things are different today, but raising awareness is important to me.”

Epilepsy is a neurological disease, but there are many untrue thoughts about epilepsy and seizures. This includes the myth that epilepsy is a mental illness; the need to restrain a person having a seizure and the risk of swallowing a tongue during a seizure. All of these are untrue.

Mack has felt supported by her family and friends throughout her medical journey, but there are many who feel ashamed or embarrassed about their diagnosis. She had hoped many times to join a support group, but has never found one close enough to attend. She is currently working with The Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota to form a local support group. “Being able to talk to each other and support each other is important. No one should feel alone or embarrassed about epilepsy,” Mack said.

Mack is also working with the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota with the hope of a fundraiser epilepsy walk. “It is something we are working on and hope we can do this spring.”

Mack will be presenting, talking about her book and doing a reading on Tuesday, March 7 from 6-7 p.m. at the Jessie F. Hallett Memorial Library in Crosby. This free event is open to the public.

Mack’s book can be purchased locally at The Jacques Center in Aitkin, CatTales and The Crossing Arts in Downtown Brainerd, and at any of her scheduled events.

 

Source: messagemedia.co

New research could greatly improve the quality of life for patients with temporal lobe epilepsy

New research could greatly improve the quality of life for patients with temporal lobe epilepsy

Seizures can be predicted more than 30 minutes before onset in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy, opening the door to a therapy using electrodes that could be activated to prevent seizures from happening, according to new research from UTHealth Houston.

The study, led by Sandipan Pati, MD, associate professor in the Department of Neurology with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, was recently published in NEJM Evidence, a publication of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The ability to predict seizures before they occur is a major step forward in the field of epilepsy research. These findings are significant because they suggest that we may be able to develop more effective therapies for epilepsy, which could greatly improve the quality of life for patients who suffer from this condition.”

Sandipan Pati, MD, senior author of the study and member of the Texas Institute for Restorative Neurotechnologies at UTHealth Houston Neurosciences

Surgery is a common treatment for many patients with epilepsy. But when seizures affect larger areas of the brain, removing part of the brain surgically is not an option. Neuromodulation therapy could offer an alternative solution for patients with these seizures, Pati said.

Past studies of continuous electroencephalography (EEG) – the measurement and recording of electrical activity in different parts of the brain – have suggested that seizures in people with focal-onset epilepsies tend to occur during periods of heightened risk, represented by pathologic brain activities known as “pro-ictal states.” The EEG-based detection of pro-ictal states is critical to the success of adaptive neuromodulation, with the early detection of seizures allowing electrodes to be applied therapeutically to the brain’s seizure onset zone and thalamus.

To distinguish these pro-ictal states, Pati’s team studied a prospective, consecutive series of 15 patients with temporal lobe epilepsy who underwent limbic thalamic recordings in addition to routine intracranial EEG for seizure localization. In total, they analyzed 1,800 patient hours of continuous EEG.

The researchers were able to detect pro-ictal states in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy at least 35 minutes before seizure onset. Pro-ictal states were distinguished at least 45 minutes before seizure onset in 13 of 15 participants. In two of 15 participants, they were distinguished up to 35 minutes prior.

While Pati believes that modulation of these brain regions during pro-ictal periods may be an effective therapeutic approach to the treatment of temporal lobe epilepsy, his theory still needs to be tested in clinical trials. However, this information could lead to the development of electrical or drug therapies aimed at preventing seizures.

“This study was made possible by the collaboration of a team of experts in neurology, neurosurgery, and neuroscience,” he said. “It highlights the importance of interdisciplinary research in advancing our understanding of brain disorders.”

Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common seizure disorder, affecting some 50 million people globally. There are two temporal lobes, one on each side of the head behind the temples. Mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, which accounts for about 80% of all temporal lobe seizures, involves seizures starting in or near a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which controls memory and learning. Neocortical or lateral temporal lobe epilepsy involves seizures starting in the outer section of the temporal lobe.

Omar A. Alamoudi, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Neurology with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, contributed to the study. Other co-authors included Adeel Ilyas, MD, and Kristen O. Riley, MD, both with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

 

Source: news-medical.net, Emily Henderson, B.Sc.

What You Need to Know About SUDEP

What You Need to Know About SUDEP

       Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is when an otherwise healthy person with epilepsy  dies without a known cause, such as injury or drowning. Usually, death occurs during or right after a seizure, but it can occur without a seizure. The condition is not well-understood.

This article will discuss SUDEP, its possible causes, and some things that may reduce the risk.

What Is SUDEP?

SUDEP describes the death of a person with epilepsy when no other cause can be determined. It is the leading cause of death in people with uncontrolled seizures. It affects 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy each year.

What Causes SUDEP?

An exact cause of SUDEP has not been established. Why it happens is not well-understood, but researchers have identified some possible reasons.

Breathing

Seizures can cause apnea (temporarily stopping breathing). A pause in breathing that is too long can cause a dangerous lack of oxygen in the blood, preventing enough oxygen from getting to the heart or brain.

 

 A convulsive seizure can also cause the person’s airway to become blocked, leading to suffocation.

Brain Function

Seizures may interfere with or suppress functioning in areas of the brain stem that are responsible for breathing, heart rate, and other important functions. This could cause dangerous changes in breathing and heart rate.

Heart Rhythm

While rare, a seizure can cause a dangerous heart rhythm or cardiac arrest.

Other Causes

It’s possible that SUDEP is caused by a combination of factors, such as breathing difficulty, abnormal heart rhythm, and/or changes in brain function.

Researchers are also exploring other possible causes they haven’t identified yet. One area of interest is the noted tendency of people who die of SUDEP to be found lying prone (on their stomachs) in bed.

It’s possible that in this position, during a seizure, the mouth and nose may become partially or fully obstructed and it may be more difficult to expand the chest. If the person is unable to change positions, asphyxia (suffocation) or rebreathing (breathing back in exhaled air) could occur, causing a lack of adequate oxygen to the body.

Because SUDEP often occurs at night, researchers are looking into a possible connection between SUDEP and the circadian (sleep-wake cycle) processes. Breathing during sleep is different from breathing while awake. Apnea, including obstructive sleep apnea, can occur. A person who is asleep may also be less likely to respond to and correct breathing difficulties.

Currently, an explanation for why SUDEP often occurs at night or during sleep has not been fully established, and the research is ongoing.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase the risk of SUDEP for people with epilepsy include:

  • Uncontrolled and/or frequent seizures: For people with very frequent seizures, the rate of SUDEP is estimated at between 1 in 50 and 1 in 100.6 The risk increases with the number of seizures (one to two seizures a year increases the risk by 5 times, while three or more seizures a year can increase the risk up to 15 times). It can still occur in people who have few seizures.
  • Generalized convulsive seizures: Previously called tonic-clonic or grand mal seizures. Absence or myoclonic seizures are not believed to increase the risk of SUDEP.
  • Being ages 21 to 40: SUDEP happens more often in this age group compared to other age groups.
  • Seizures that started at a young age
  • Having been living with epilepsy for many years
  • Missing medication doses
  • Alcohol consumption

SUDEP in Children

According to some research, SUDEP is less common in younger children, but other studies have found a similar rate to that of adults. Children who have uncontrolled epilepsy or who experience frequent seizures are at the highest risk.

Other risk factors may include:

  • Early onset of epilepsy
  • The presence of developmental disabilities

Some steps you can take that may reduce the risk of SUDEP include:

  • Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about the risk of SUDEP.
  • Make sure your child is following their treatment plan exactly as prescribed and not missing doses.
  • Check in with their healthcare provider regularly to discuss if adjustments are needed, particularly if they are still having seizures.
  • Avoid seizure triggers as much as possible.
  • Help your child get enough good quality sleep.
  • Make sure all the adults in the child’s life are trained in seizure first aid.
  • Talk to their healthcare provider about if seizure detection devices may be beneficial.

How to Reduce Your Risk

SUDEP can’t always be prevented, but there are some things that can be done which may reduce the risk.

Seizure Control Medical Treatment

The most recommended way to reduce the risk of SUDEP is to control your seizures. It’s important to take your medication as prescribed (don’t miss doses), and to check in with your healthcare provider regularly to see if adjustments are needed.

If seizures can’t be controlled with medication, other treatments may be tried that include:

  • Surgery
  • Neurostimulation devices
  • Dietary therapies

Avoid Seizure Triggers

If you know what they are, avoid anything that makes you more likely to have a seizure. Even if you can’t avoid them, knowing what triggers your seizures can help you be better prepared.

Some commonly reported seizure triggers include:9

  • Time of day/night
  • Sleep deprivation/sleep difficulties
  • Illness
  • Flashing lights or patterns
  • Drinking alcohol (especially heavy alcohol use) or alcohol withdrawal
  • Substance use, such as cocaine or Ecstasy
  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes and menstrual cycle
  • Not eating well or going long times without eating
  • Specific foods
  • Caffeine or other products
  • Dehydration or not enough fluids
  • Low blood sugar
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Certain medications
  • Missed medications

Lifestyle Changes

Some lifestyle choices that may help with seizure control include:

  • Follow your treatment program as prescribed.
  • Try to identify and avoid your triggers (consider tracking your seizures in an epilepsy diary).
  • Get enough good quality sleep.
  • Avoid or limit alcohol.
  • Avoid recreational drugs.
  • Check in regularly with your healthcare providers.
  • Discuss other treatment options with your healthcare provider if your seizures are not controlled by your current treatment.
  • Eat nutritious foods and stay active.
  • Practice stress management.
  • Discuss your risks for seizure emergencies and SUDEP with your epilepsy healthcare provider.

Because SUDEP often occurs at night, there are some sleep-specific steps that may reduce your risk, including:

  • Share a room with another person who can provide help if needed, such as positioning you on your side.
  • Get checked for obstructive sleep apnea and treat it if necessary.
  • Use one of the several available devices that detect seizures and alert family members, medical personnel, or a person you have designated (it has not yet been proven that these devices lower the risk of SUDEP, research is ongoing).

Train Family Members and Coworkers in Seizure First Aid

It’s important to ensure family, friends, and those who regularly spend time with you know seizure first aid and emergency resuscitation measures (including CPR and defibrillator use).

Proper training on what to do is necessary, but some general tips for how to help someone who is having a seizure include:

  • Stay with the person during the seizure.
  • Check if they have a medical alert bracelet or other emergency information.
  • Speak calmly and comfort the person.
  • Keep yourself and others calm.
  • Stay with the person afterward until they are fully awake, alert, able to communicate, and breathing easily (at least 15 to 20 minutes).
  • When the seizure is done, help the person sit in a safe place and calmly explain what happened.
  • Ensure they get home safely by offering to call a taxi, rideshare service, or another person to take them home.

If a person has a generalized convulsive seizure, they may fall, shake or jerk, cry out, and become unaware of their surroundings. This type of seizure requires steps in addition to the general guidelines for seizure. To help someone having this type of seizure, do the following:

  • Ease them down onto the floor.
  • Gently turn them onto one side.
  • Move anything around them that they could hurt themselves on.
  • Place something soft and flat (like a folded jacket) under their head.
  • Remove eyeglasses if they are wearing them.
  • Loosen anything around their neck, such as ties or anything that could make it hard to breathe.
  • Time the seizure and call 911 (or your local emergency number) if it lasts longer than five minutes.

Do not:

  • Hold them down or try to restrict their movements.
  • Put anything in their mouth (they cannot swallow their tongue, and putting something in their mouth could injure them or you).
  • Give mouth-to-mouth/CPR during the seizure (most of the time, they start breathing on their own again after the seizure).
  • Give them food or water until they are fully alert.

Call 911 if:

  • This is the first seizure the person has ever had.
  • They have trouble breathing or waking up after the seizure.
  • The seizure lasts longer than five minutes.
  • They have another seizure soon after the first seizure.
  • The person is injured.
  • The seizure happened in water.
  • They are pregnant.
  • They have a health condition (such as diabetes or heart disease).

Seizure Action Plan

The Epilepsy Foundation offers Seizure Action Plan instructions and a template you can use to help your loved ones be prepared.

Talking to Your Healthcare Provider About SUDEP

Talking to your healthcare provider about SUDEP can help you learn about your risk and discuss measures you can take that may lower your risk.

Some questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider include:

  • Am I at risk for SUDEP?
  • Can I lower my risk (and how)?
  • What should I do if I miss a medication dose or if I am experiencing vomiting/diarrhea?
  • Are my seizures as well-controlled as possible, or should we consider other options?
  • Is there anything I should avoid?
  • What should I tell my friends and family to do if I have a seizure?
  • Is there somewhere local that provides training in seizure first aid?
  • Are there seizure alert devices I should be using?
  • Should I be sharing a room at night?
  • Should I get my heart checked?

This discussion may take some time. Let your healthcare provider know when you book your appointment or at the beginning of the appointment that you have questions about SUDEP, or book a separate appointment so you have plenty of time.

Write down your questions ahead of time, and bring a pen and paper to write down the information given to you by your healthcare provider.

Risk levels for SUDEP can change over time. Follow up with your healthcare provider regularly to discuss how your risks and needs may have changed.

Summary

SUDEP is the death of an otherwise healthy person with epilepsy when no other cause can be determined. The exact cause of SUDEP is not known. Frequent and/or uncontrolled general convulsive seizures appear to be the biggest risk factor for SUDEP.

SUDEP can’t always be prevented, but making sure seizures are under control may reduce the risk. It’s also important for friends and family to know how to perform seizure first aid. Talking to your healthcare provider can help you feel well-informed and may bring you some peace of mind.

 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • How common is SUDEP among those with epilepsy?

    The exact number isn’t known, but it’s estimated that about 1 in 1,000 people with epilepsy may die from SUDEP each year. This number is increased for people with epilepsy whose seizures are not controlled.

  • Can anti-suffocation pillows help to prevent SUDEP?

    These pillows are made for people who are at risk for suffocation, but there isn’t scientific evidence to support using them to prevent SUDEP. If you think they might be beneficial to you or a loved one, talk to your healthcare provider.

  • Is SUDEP genetic?

    Some studies suggest genetic factors are involved in SUDEP, but more research is needed.

     

 

 

 

Source: verywellhealth.com, Heather Jones

Is Epilepsy Genetic?

Is Epilepsy Genetic?

About half of the time, the cause of epilepsy is unable to be identified. When a cause can’t be found, it is called cryptogenic epilepsy. For the other half of epilepsy cases, the causes may be more easily identifiable, such as head trauma or a known genetic syndrome.

Read on to learn more about how genetics can play a role in the development and treatment of epilepsy.

Genetics and Epilepsy

Genetic epilepsy means that the person has one or more genes that increase the likelihood of developing seizures.

Often in idiopathic generalized epilepsy (also called genetic generalized epilepsy), these abnormal genes only increase the risk of seizures by a small amount individually, but if several of these genes are present, epilepsy becomes more likely.

Idiopathic epilepsies include:

  • Childhood absence epilepsy
  • Juvenile absence epilepsy
  • Juvenile myoclonic epilepsy
  • Epilepsy with generalized tonic-clonic seizures alone

There are over 200 genes that have been identified as “epilepsy genes.” Many other genes have also been shown to cause genetic disorders that can involve epilepsy or seizures.

These genes can be linked to epilepsy in several ways, including:

  • Causing epilepsy directly (may be part of a genetic disorder that has epilepsy as a characteristic or symptom)
  • Causing epilepsy as a result of an interaction between genetic and environmental factors
  • Causing brain malformations that can lead to epilepsy
  • Inherited conditions that increase the likelihood of seizures, such as inherited metabolic conditions

Affected genes can have:

  • Mutations in the mitochondrial DNA
  • Missing or mutated chromosomes
  • Changes in the activity of genes

In some cases, a genetic cause may be suspected, but the exact cause of epilepsy can’t be pinpointed.

 

Some gene mutations don’t cause epilepsy to develop but can still affect a person with epilepsy. For example, some people with epilepsy have an abnormally active version of a certain gene, making them more resistant to anti-seizure drugs.

Inherited Epilepsy vs. Genetic Pathogenic Variants

If epilepsy results from a known or presumed genetic variant, it is considered to have a genetic cause. This does not necessarily mean the person inherited their epilepsy.

Changes in genes, called genetic pathogenic variants, can occur spontaneously, meaning a child can have these affected genes even if neither biological parent does.

Just having gene mutations that increase the risk of epilepsy doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop epilepsy. In many cases, other factors, such as environmental conditions, are needed for the genetic predisposition to lead to the development of epilepsy.

Inheritance can play a role too. The risk of epilepsy is increased 2 to 4 times for first-degree relatives of a person with inherited epilepsy. Even with this increased risk, the overall risk of developing epilepsy is still low.

The risk is higher if the biological mother has epilepsy than if the biological father does. (Note that when research or health authorities are cited, the terms for sex or gender from the source are used.)

Having a sibling with epilepsy can also increase the risk, especially an identical twin.

Inherited epilepsy can be complex. For example:

  • Siblings who have different gene mutations can develop the same epilepsy syndrome.
  • Family members with the same gene mutation can have epilepsy but experience the effects differently.
  • An epilepsy syndrome may be known to have a genetic basis, but the specific affected gene or genes haven’t been identified.

Types of Genetic Disorders

Five types of genetic disorders are:

  • Single gene or Mendelian disorders: Changes occur in a single gene, or a single gene is missing. This may be passed from parent to child or may occur spontaneously in the child.
  • Multifactorial or complex disorders: Mutations occur in a number of genes. Often these disorders are influenced by environmental factors such as substance use, birthing parent infections, or exposure to hazardous materials. These tend to run in families, but a pattern of inheritance can be difficult to determine.
  • Chromosomal disorders: Entire (or parts of) chromosomes are missing or altered. These often occur spontaneously in the affected person, but can be inherited.
  • Mitochondrial disorders: These are caused by mutations in DNA found in mitochondria (structures outside the cell nucleus that make energy for the cells). Mitochondrial DNA is only inherited from the egg-contributing (maternal) parent.
  • Epigenetic disorders: These are related to changes in the activity of genes, instead of a mutation in the structure of the DNA.

Symptoms of Genetic Epilepsy

“Epilepsy” is an umbrella term for a group of disorders, each with its own characteristics. The symptoms of genetic epilepsy can vary.

Idiopathic generalized epilepsy involves both sides of the brain and can affect all areas of the body. It usually starts in childhood or adolescence.

Symptoms of generalized seizures include:

  • Convulsions (uncontrollable shaking)
  • Stiffening
  • Making motions that are jerky, twitching, or rhythmic
  • Crying out/making a noise
  • Falling down
  • Not breathing
  • Losing consciousness
  • Confusion after regaining consciousness
  • Losing bladder control
  • Biting the tongue

Some people with epilepsy experience partial seizures (also called focal seizures). Partial seizures start in a specific area of the brain and can affect just one part or side of the body.

Symptoms of partial seizures include:

  • Movements that are jerky, rhythmic, and/or repetitive
  • Sensations such as tingling
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling full in the stomach
  • Staring
  • Confusion
  • Altered senses
  • Emotional changes

If the epilepsy is caused by a genetic syndrome, additional symptoms may be present.

Who Should Get a Genetic Assessment?

Once diagnosed with epilepsy, a genetic assessment might be helpful for people with at least one of the following:

  • Ongoing seizures that have not responded to at least two medications
  • A family history of epilepsy
  • Developmental regression or skill loss
  • Conditions in addition to epilepsy, such as global developmental delay, autism spectrum disorder, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, atypical development of organ systems (such as bones, heart, skin, kidneys, or other areas)

Treatment 

Genetic epilepsy is usually treated with anti-seizure medication.

If medication isn’t effective or isn’t a viable option, other treatments may be tried, such as:

  • Surgery to remove the area of the brain that is causing the seizures
  • Vagus nerve stimulation with a placed or implanted electrical device
  • Special diets, such as a ketogenic diet or a specific supplement (always check with your healthcare provider before trying a special diet or supplement)

Therapies targeting specific rare genes may provide beneficial treatments in the future but are still in the research phase.

Other Causes of Epilepsy

Epilepsy can be caused by a number of factors in addition to genetics.

Head Trauma

Head trauma that causes brain injury, such as a car accident, can lead to epilepsy. Seizures may not show up immediately after the traumatic head injury, but appear later on.

Clinically significant elevated risk comes from moderate and severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), where there is at least 30 minutes of unconsciousness or more than 24 hours of disorientation, usually paired with hemorrhage or other traumatic findings on a brain scan.

Infections

Infections such as meningitis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and viral encephalitis, can cause epilepsy. Infections experienced by a pregnant parent may contribute to the development of epilepsy in their baby.

Brain Abnormalities

Epilepsy can be caused by damage to the brain, such as from a stroke or brain tumors. The leading cause of epilepsy in people over the age of 35 is damage from a stroke.

Brain malformations, including vascular malformations, may also result in epilepsy.

Prenatal Injury

Brain injury in the womb leading to epilepsy can result from several factors, including:

  • Oxygen deficiencies or deprivation
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Infection in the pregnant person

Developmental Disorders

Some developmental conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder or neurofibromatosis, can coexist with epilepsy.

Risk Factors for Epilepsy

While it’s often not known why a person develops epilepsy, some factors may increase the risk, including:

  • Significant head injury
  • Brain tumor
  • Brain infection
  • Stroke
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Lack of oxygen at birth
  • Hardening of the arteries in the brain
  • Age (more common in children and in older adults than in ages in between)
  • A family history of epilepsy

Summary

Epilepsy can have a genetic component, which may or may not be inherited. Mutations in genes that can lead to epilepsy may be passed down from a biological parent or occur spontaneously.

Being genetically predisposed to epilepsy (having one or more affected genes) doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop epilepsy. Often epilepsy develops through an interaction between genetic and environmental factors.

Epilepsy is usually treated with medication, but other treatments such as surgery, vagus nerve stimulation, or diet therapy, may be suggested.

If you have or suspect you or your child has epilepsy, talk to your healthcare provider. It’s important to get a proper diagnosis and start any necessary treatment as early as possible.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

  • What are the odds of inheriting epilepsy from a parent?

    Most children who have a parent with epilepsy don’t develop epilepsy, but there is an increased risk. The level of risk varies depending on factors such as the type of epilepsy, how many family members have epilepsy, and age of onset, among others.

  • Can you diagnose epilepsy with a genetic test?

    A genetic assessment may be suggested after an epilepsy diagnosis is made to look for a genetic cause. These assessments are not done routinely for people with epilepsy, but rather a referral is made if a person’s epilepsy healthcare provider or specialist feels it is warranted.

  • Can genetic epilepsy go away?

    Some people with epilepsy need treatments to control seizures for their whole lives, while for others, seizures can stop or decrease over time. Becoming seizure-free is less likely for adults or for children with severe epilepsy syndromes.

     

Source: verywellhealth.com, Heather Jones

Stanford Research Suggests Motion Sequencing Can Potentially Help Epilepsy

Stanford Research Suggests Motion Sequencing Can Potentially Help Epilepsy

A team of researchers at Stanford has found a new way to potentially help patients with epilepsy. The researchers studied mice with acquired and genetic epilepsies, and they found that machine analysis can work better to identify epileptic vs. non-epileptic mice compared to trained human observers, according to New Atlas.

Motion Sequencing (MoSeq)

MoSeq is an AI technology the researchers used for behavior analysis of epileptic mice. This helps them identify behavioral fingerprints that often go unnoticed by humans.

It is a machine-learning technology that trains an unsupervised machine to identify repeated patterns of behavior. Once the behaviors are identified, the AI provides visualization tools and statistical tests that can help scientists understand and compare them to different experimental conditions.

This allows researchers to locate, track, and quantify mice behavior. Thus, they found that the technology could be better used to identify between epileptic and non-epileptic mice that outperforms trained human observers.

In addition, MoSeq only needed an hour of video recording and did not need a seizure to occur before it provides its analysis.

Better Epilepsy Diagnosis

The study shows the potential for better diagnosing epilepsy in humans. AI, specifically MoSeq can provide a faster and less labor intensive approach to diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. MoSeq can also be used to monitor the progression of the disease and to identify any changes in the behavior that could indicate a seizure. This could give doctors access to more detailed information about a patient’s condition that can be used to improve treatment.

How Motion Sequencing Works

Motion sequencing is a type of AI which uses computer vision and machine learning to identify patterns in video recordings of patients with epilepsy. It then uses this information to detect and classify seizure events in the video recording. The technology works by analyzing the movements of the patient and looking for changes in the movements that could indicate a seizure. It then uses this information to classify the seizure and provide an accurate diagnosis.

The study demonstrates the potential of AI to provide better diagnosis and care for patients with epilepsy. MoSeq is a promising technology that can provide a faster and less labor intensive approach to diagnosis and treatment. It can also be used to monitor the progression of the disease and to identify any changes in the behavior that could indicate a seizure. This could give doctors access to more detailed information about a patient’s condition that can be used to improve treatment.

 

Source: techtimes.com, April Fowell

Common epilepsy triggers and How to identify it

Common epilepsy triggers and How to identify it

Recurrent seizures, which are defined as sudden and brief disruptions of the brain’s electrical activity, are a hallmark of epilepsy. Triggers for epilepsy can vary greatly from person to person, but some common triggers include:

1. Sleep deprivation: Everyone needs to get a good night’s sleep, but people with epilepsy need it even more. Not getting enough sleep or disruptions to ones sleep schedule can increase the likelihood of a seizure. Sadly, sleep and epilepsy operate in a somewhat vicious cycle. Epilepsy can make it hard to sleep, and not getting enough sleep can make your seizures worse. Insomnia , one of the side effects of some epilepsy medications, can prevent you from falling or staying asleep. Additionally, epilepsy patients are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea, a condition that further disrupts sleep.

2. Stress: Your body can be affected physically by stress. If it lasts, it can give you headaches, make you sleepy, and make you more likely to get diabetes or heart disease. Stress can also trigger seizures in epileptic patients.

3. Flashing lights or patterns: Some people with epilepsy are sensitive to flashing lights or patterns. This is known as Photo sensitive epilepsy.

4. Alcohol and drugs: Excessive alcohol consumption or use of certain drugs, including cocaine and marijuana , can increase the likelihood of a seizure. Seizures linked to alcohol typically occur during withdrawal, when alcohol is leaving your body. This indicates that even if you aren’t having seizures but are drinking, you might still be at risk because seizures could occur later.

5. Medications: Certain medications, such as antidepressants or antipsychotics, can increase the likelihood of a seizure .

6. Changes in hormones: Some women may experience seizures when their hormones change, such as during or just before menstruation ( Catamenial Epilepsy ), pregnancy, or menopause. According to research, there may be a strong link between epileptic seizures and hormones in some epileptic women. Throughout her life, a woman’s hormone levels can change, affecting when her epilepsy starts, how often she has seizures, and whether or not she stops having them. Changes in hormone levels over time may be the reason why women and men manage epilepsy differently. It could also explain why a woman’s epilepsy treatment may need to change over time.

7. Illness: Seizures can be triggered by illnesses like fever (Febrile Epilepsy) or infections. Epileptic seizures are frequently triggered by acute illness or infection. Infections of the head, lungs, or sinuses caused by viruses or bacteria can frequently cause seizures to change.8. Skipping meals: Going without food for an extended period of time can trigger seizures in some people with epilepsy.

8. Fatigue: Prolonged physical or mental exhaustion can trigger seizures in some people with epilepsy. Although everyone occasionally experiences fatigue, epileptics are more likely than others to experience elevated or frequent feelings of weakness, exhaustion, and tiredness. Epileptic patients may occasionally experience anxiety or depression. It may be harder to stay motivated and focused when you have depression symptoms, which can make it harder to complete daily tasks. This can make you feel tired and exhausted.

9.Music: In rare cases, certain types of music or musical patterns can trigger seizures in people with epilepsy.

10. Abrupt shifts in routine: A seizure can occur when the body’s natural rhythm is disrupted by sudden changes in routine, such as when traveling to a different time zone. It is essential to keep in mind that epilepsy triggers can vary greatly from person to person, and what causes a seizure in one person may not cause it in another.

Additionally, there may be no known cause for epilepsy in some individuals.

Working with a doctor to identify any triggers and develop strategies for managing them is essential for anyone with epilepsy.

Adjusting one’s sleep schedule, practicing techniques for managing stress, avoiding flashing lights or patterns, limiting one’s use of alcohol and drugs, and avoiding medications that cause seizures are all examples of this.

 

Source: mirchi.in, Dr. Atul Prasad,

AI outperforms human eye in spotting epileptic behavior in mice

AI outperforms human eye in spotting epileptic behavior in mice

The advent of high-resolution imaging has provided healthcare providers and scientists with a greater understanding of the brain circuit malfunctions seen in epileptics, but less is known about how epilepsy affects behavior. A new study has used state-of-the-art AI on mice to catch epilepsy-related behavior that can be missed by the human eye.

Epilepsy is the most common chronic brain disease, affecting millions of people worldwide. It can affect people of any age, and, for some, treatment not only produces nasty side effects but does not prevent seizures from occurring.

A traditional approach to epilepsy diagnosis and treatment assessment involves the use of continuous video-electroencephalogram (EEG) monitoring over days or weeks. But it can be a fairly blunt tool, given the complexity and diversity of the condition and the fact that some seizures do not appear on EEG. In addition, it is both labor-intensive and subjective. A healthcare professional must view and analyze hours of video-EEG recordings, and rely on their ability to notice often slight behavioral changes.

Now, researchers have used AI technology called MoSeq (or Motion Sequencing) to analyze the behavior of epileptic mice, identifying the behavioral “fingerprints’ that can go unnoticed by the human eye.

MoSeq is a machine-learning technology that trains an unsupervised machine to identify repeated patterns of behavior. After identifying the behaviors, MoSeq offers a set of visualization tools and statistical tests to help scientists understand those behaviors and compare them to a range of experimental conditions.

Using MoSeq to analyze 3D videos of freely moving mice, the researchers were able to locate, track and quantify the behavior of the mice. They found that the technology could better distinguish between epileptic and non-epileptic mice, outperforming trained human observers. Moreover, it required only one hour of video recording and did not need a seizure to occur before offering its analysis, unlike traditional methods.

Researchers were able to use the AI to differentiate between patterns of behavior in the mice after they were given one of three anti-epileptic medications.

The successful use of machine-learning technology demonstrates its potential for use in humans to provide a faster, less labor-intensive, less costly and more objective way to diagnose epilepsy and test the efficacy of anti-epileptic medications.

 

Source: newatlas.com, Pau; McClure

MUM’S AGONY Doctors told me my daughter’s condition wouldn’t kill her – she died two years later

MUM’S AGONY Doctors told me my daughter’s condition wouldn’t kill her – she died two years later

WHEN Deborah Leigh’s daughter was diagnosed with a rare condition causing seizures, she claims doctors told her it wouldn’t prove fatal.

Yet, two years later, the devastated mum found her 25-year-old child, Helen, lifeless on the floor of her home.

After a desperate attempt to perform CPR, Helen died.

The phlebotomist from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, had suffered her first seizure in March 2013, leading doctors to diagnose her with epilepsy in November the following year.

But, after suffering three seizures in September 2015, mum Deborah said Helen’s diagnosis was changed from epilepsy to non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD).

Deborah claims that doctors told her at the time that her daughter could not die of NEAD.

Now she wants to raise awareness about the little-known condition.

Deborah said: “Not once before Helen died were we told that you can have both epilepsy and NEAD.

But Helen’s neurologist wrote to her family after her death in May 2018, saying: ‘In retrospect, Helen probably had both epileptic and NEAD seizures.’

“Well, you can imagine how that went down,” Deborah said.

“I was so angry – and still am.”

“I think Helen’s death was avoidable.”

She added: “Had we known this, we would have been able to have different conversations with those treating her, which could have meant further investigations and tests, and resulted in her receiving the correct treatment.”

After receiving her epilepsy diagnosis in 2014, Helen was prescribed anti-epilepsy drugs.

Deborah said: “The medication seemed to work and she went eight months without a seizure.

“Then her medication was changed and she had every side effect going.”

Helen was then again prescribed her old medication, but it was titrated. This means that medication is started at a low dose and upped every few weeks until an effective dosage is reached or side effects occur.

Doctors gave Helen a lower dosage of the medicine to see how it affected her seizures, mum Deborah said.

But on Deborah’s birthday in September 2015, Helen had three seizures.

Deborah filmed one of them to show the neurology team.

The video led the team to re-evaluate Helen’s diagnosis, from epilepsy to NEAD.

According to Epilepsy Action, NEAD attacks are “dissociative seizures” which are “not caused by abnormal electrical activity in the brain”.

The charity says: “Instead, it’s thought they are a physical reaction to distressing triggers such as sensations, thoughts, emotions and difficult situations.

“Some experts say dissociative seizures are the brain’s way of ‘shutting down’ to protect itself from overwhelming distress.

“Some dissociative seizures look very similar to epileptic seizures, whilst others look more like fainting.”

About one in every five people referred to hospital for seizures are diagnosed with dissociative seizures, the charity wrote.

Deborah said she had never heard of the condition but claimed she was told by doctors that people cannot die from it.

The main treatment for dissociative seizures is psychological therapy, also called talking therapy, according to Epilepsy Action.

As a result, Deborah said Helen was taken off medication despite still suffering seizures once or twice a month.

What is non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD)?

Some seizures people experience don’t seem to have a physical cause, mental health charity Mind says.

People with dissociative disorders can have them – they’re called dissociative seizures or non-epileptic attacks.

They may be caused by the brain dealing with overwhelming stress by ‘shutting down’.

If you have a dissociative seizure you may:

  • Have convulsions of the arms, legs, head or body (on one side or affecting the whole body)
  • Lose control of your bladder or bowels
  • Bite your tongue
  • Go blank or stare in an unseeing way
  • Have other symptoms that look like epilepsy

You might be diagnosed with NEAD if you experience these.

Meanwhile, people with epilepsy suffer seizures due to bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect how it works.

Possible symptoms include:

  • uncontrollable jerking and shaking, called a “fit”
  • losing awareness and staring blankly into space
  • becoming stiff
  • strange sensations, such as a “rising” feeling in the tummy, unusual smells or tastes, and a tingling feeling in your arms or legs
  • collapsing

Sometimes you might pass out and not remember what happened.

What is non-epileptic attack disorder (NEAD)?

Some seizures people experience don’t seem to have a physical cause, mental health charity Mind says.

People with dissociative disorders can have them – they’re called dissociative seizures or non-epileptic attacks.

They may be caused by the brain dealing with overwhelming stress by ‘shutting down’.

If you have a dissociative seizure you may:

  • Have convulsions of the arms, legs, head or body (on one side or affecting the whole body)
  • Lose control of your bladder or bowels
  • Bite your tongue
  • Go blank or stare in an unseeing way
  • Have other symptoms that look like epilepsy

You might be diagnosed with NEAD if you experience these.

Meanwhile, people with epilepsy suffer seizures due to bursts of electrical activity in the brain that temporarily affect how it works.

Possible symptoms include:

  • uncontrollable jerking and shaking, called a “fit”
  • losing awareness and staring blankly into space
  • becoming stiff
  • strange sensations, such as a “rising” feeling in the tummy, unusual smells or tastes, and a tingling feeling in your arms or legs
  • collapsing

Sometimes you might pass out and not remember what happened.

“The post mortem report concluded that Helen had “suffered from non-epileptic attack disorder along with migraine, dyslexia and hypothyroidism.

“The condition which led to her seizures is considered to be a psychiatric condition which is managed and treated in a different manner to that of traditional epilepsy. It is a condition which is considered to be not typically associated with aspiration and unexpected death.”

Source: the-sun.com, Eliza Loukou

I Thought My Seizures Were ‘All In My Head’ – But I Wasn’t Making Them Up

I Thought My Seizures Were ‘All In My Head’ – But I Wasn’t Making Them Up

In 2019 I began losing control of my body and started having seizures. Initially they were every few months but became increasingly frequent until they were happening four times a day, lasting up to an hour at a time. My right arm developed a permanent tremor and I suffered from severe exhaustion. Having been signed off work, I was tested for multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, early onset Parkinson’s and epilepsy. All the results came back negative.
Travelling, socializing or even leaving the house became difficult. On one occasion I stood in Paddington station and missed three consecutive trains because my seizure made walking difficult and the platform announcement was so close to departure that I couldn’t get there in time. I stood and I cried and I shook and no one helped me. I desperately wanted to know what was wrong but I didn’t realize that how medical professionals would explain my diagnosis would be as important as the diagnosis itself.
I was passed from specialist to specialist until eventually I spoke to a neurologist who asked me, as we were talking, to tap my thumb and middle finger together on my left hand. As I did so, the tremor in my right arm stopped. From this small exercise, I finally got a diagnosis: functional neurological disorder (FND).
FND is a software problem rather than a hardware problem, meaning that the brain is physically healthy but struggles to process information it receives from the body. My immediate reaction was shame. I had been off work for months, lost control of my limbs and was now being told it was psychological. Why couldn’t I control my brain? Had I been subconsciously making myself ill? I wanted to tell my brain to stop but it wouldn’t listen. But as I began to learn, I could distract it. Tapping out a pattern with my fingers or toes, as the neurologist had shown me, shifted my brain’s focus away from my tremor or seizure and stopped the symptoms.
I recently spoke to Hollie-Anne Brookes, a journalist and disability rights activist who also suffers from FND, after connecting through her article about her experience. From our conversation I have learned that my feelings were not unusual. “I did feel really ashamed… I remember breaking down to my mum and my boyfriend at the time and saying: ‘I’m so sorry.’ I felt the need to apologize so much for my diagnosis.”
According to consultant neurologist Jon Stone, who runs the website neurosymptoms.org, FND is one of the most common neurological diagnoses. The exact number of people affected by FND is unclear but it is believed that 50,000 to 100,000 people in the UK could be affected by the two most common types: functional seizures and functional movement disorders. According to a meta-analysis of 4,905 cases, it is particularly prevalent among young women yet few people have heard of it, including doctors. The FND support group FNDAction ran a campaign in 2022 to raise awareness of FND among frontline NHS staff, called #InformTheDoctor. FND has been historically under-researched, having been “marginalised” as an area of study in the 20th century. Enormous advances have been made in the past 10 years, improving diagnosis, treatment and understanding. Investigation is now ongoing as to why the disorder is more common in women and, indeed, what causes it.
The disorder affects how the brain sends and receives information. As humans, we have subconscious templates for reacting to situations. When we step onto an escalator, for example, our brain adjusts so that the escalator’s movement doesn’t unbalance us. FND is like stepping onto an escalator that isn’t moving – you can see it is stationary but your brain overrides your eyes and adjusts to its template, creating the lurching sensation. FND can present via a plethora of symptoms but the most common are tremors, seizures, limb weakness, reduced sensation in parts of the body, tics and dizziness. These are frequently accompanied by fatigue, pain, headaches and anxiety. Mark Edwards, professor of neurology at King’s College, London and FND specialist, previously wrote: “There has been historically a lot of emphasis on psychological trauma, or more broadly ‘stress’ as a triggering factor … However, this does not mean that all, even the majority of people with FND have had such experiences. It also does not necessarily mean that if such stressful life events have occurred that this is the direct cause of FND.”
As humans, we have subconscious templates for reacting to situations. When we step onto an escalator, our brain adjusts so that the escalator’s movement doesn’t unbalance us. FND is like stepping onto an escalator that isn’t moving – you can see it is stationary but your brain overrides your eyes and adjusts to its template, creating the lurching sensation.
Although not all cases of FND are triggered by trauma, Edwards goes on to say: “In my experience the commonest scenario at the onset of FND is the combination of a ‘typical’ physical event (illness, injury) and a period prior to this of hard work, a degree of fatigue caused by this and ‘normal’ chronic life stressors that affect many people.”
What we now know as FND has been scrutinized historically through clinical observation but has gone by many different names and levels of stigmatization: hysteria, nervous system disorder, conversion disorder or psychogenic or non-organic illness. Over the last century, the term ‘hysteria’ was replaced by ‘conversion disorders’ and this, in turn, has been replaced by functional neurological disorder. It is only in recent years that FND has become a recognized term and more thorough research into the condition has begun taking place.
Research has found a connection between FND and the stress hormone cortisol. Whenever I was stressed, tired or anxious, my brain went into autopilot and I would have a seizure. This loss of control of my body was terrifying and the fear caused my body to produce more cortisol, creating a debilitating loop.
I was spiraling downwards, slowly growing more disabled. The longer my FND remained untreated, the more habitual the symptoms became for my brain. Inevitably, those incorrect templates became more and more embedded. When untreated, the progression of FND varies between patients: the symptoms can remain mild and consistent or increase in severity to a point where a wheelchair is required or sufferers are unable to leave their homes. The diagnosis of FND was in many ways a relief – I finally knew what was wrong with me. But it also presented its own problems. Being diagnosed with a neurological disorder made it feel like I was making it up, or it was self-inflicted. I was embarrassed and ashamed by my diagnosis. If it was my brain causing these seizures then it was my fault, I thought. I must be having them intentionally. Patients commonly struggle to accept that such physical symptoms are psychosomatic. Dr Sandra Eriemo, a cognitive behavioral therapist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, tells R29: “The patient knows the symptoms are real so it can be very demoralizing to think you are being told it’s all in your head. People think they are not being believed.” How the patient is told about the diagnosis is vital.
There is life-changing treatment available through the NHS. Hollie-Anne and I both attended a six-week program in the neuropsychiatry department of UCLH (she completed her treatment the week before mine started). We were taught that FND was not our fault and couldn’t be switched off without training. The treatment consisted of physiotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and occupational therapy. We learned to identify the cause and triggers of our FND and how to regain control during flare-ups.
Being diagnosed with a neurological disorder made it feel like I was making it up, or it was self-inflicted.
It is common for FND patients to exist in a cycle of boom and bust. On the days where their symptoms feel more manageable they do too much, leading to a flare-up the following day and a negative impact on both the individual’s mood (following the burst of cortisol) and their perception of their ability to live a ‘normal’ life. The physiotherapy and occupational therapy worked on a graded exercise plan so that each day a patient would do slightly more than on a typical ‘bad’ day and slightly less than on a ‘good’ day, breaking the cycle to create steady improvement.
Patients are taught ways to manage their symptoms, both physically and psychologically. Alongside learning more about tapping techniques to distract my brain, I was taught to lean into the involuntary movement. If my arm was trembling, I would try and make that tremor bigger and more pronounced until I could control the movement of it, then slowly reduce the speed until stopping it. I learned that the seizures were linked to anxiety or stress triggers and was taught breathing exercises and meditation techniques to calm my nervous system and reduce cortisol production. Similarly, CBT worked to manage thoughts and behaviors that could be marring my recovery. Where required, psychologists were on hand to help patients identify and process past traumas. Through this six-week program, Hollie-Anne learned to walk again. I learned to manage my seizures and was able to return to work.
From the development of symptoms to GP appointments, specialist referrals, diagnosis and then waiting times for treatment, the process is a lengthy one. Following my referral, I waited a year and a half before being accepted for treatment. This was unusually quick, according to hospital staff and other patients I’ve spoken to. My proximity to the hospital meant I could complete the program during the pandemic as I could keep travel to a minimum; others I spoke to on the course had been waiting much longer, often several years. While someone diagnosed with FND could seek independent therapists in each of the above areas, it can be incredibly difficult to get the necessary referrals through the NHS. Even then, it is not guaranteed that the therapist will be familiar with FND or know how to treat it specifically.
Patients must believe FND is the problem before they’re accepted for treatment and not read the diagnosis as a dismissal of their pain. Sandra explains: “It is vital that the diagnosis is delivered in a way that makes clear the symptoms are real. Acceptance of the diagnosis is vital for treatment to be effective. It is not worthwhile pretending you accept the diagnosis in order to get treatment as [the treatment then] tends not to be effective.” Doctors reach a diagnosis of FND through a process of elimination and patients can feel like they’re only receiving the diagnosis because the doctor has run out of other options. My doctor could see my physical symptoms, name a condition and then prove he was correct by giving me an immediate way of stopping it. That showed me he believed my illness was real.
Training in how to recognize FND and communicate the diagnosis to the patient must be rolled out across the medical profession. The condition can be debilitating but the right treatment is transformative and can give people with FND, like me, their lives back.
Societally, we still divide ‘medical health’ and ‘mental health’. It is more accepted to discuss treating a physical ailment through medication than it is to explain we are treating a disability through therapy. FND needs to be more widely recognized to be destigmatized and eradicate the shame many of us feel around diagnosis. This will speed up the diagnostic process and help patients to accept the information, giving them the best chance of recovery.
The treatment, above anything else, starts with the diagnosis.
Source: refinery29.com, OCCY CARR
12 Best Foods for a Healthy Brain and Better Memory

12 Best Foods for a Healthy Brain and Better Memory

These foods will help you maintain a healthy brain and may even prevent conditions like dementia.

It’s not often that the brain thinks about itself and all that it does to keep us properly functioning. However, the reality is that it takes a lot of energy to think, move and go about our daily lives. And our brain needs adequate fuel to do its job well.

Studies show that, on average, the brain accounts for about 20% of the calories we burn daily. However, that doesn’t mean any food will help your brain power through. When it comes to bolstering your brain to do its best work — staying focused and maintaining a strong memory — some foods are much better than others.

Consuming nutrient-dense foods will not only keep you brain happy and healthy, but may also aid in preventing diseases like dementia. The Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes consumption of whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and fish, has shown promising results in prevent age-related conditions. This diet has also been shown to lower high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

If you want to keep your mind in good shape, here are the 12 best foods for brain health.

Leafy greens

Not to parrot your mother, but she was right on this one. Those leafy greens really are good for you, especially your brain. Spinach, collards, kale — you name it. These veggies are rich in brain-boosting nutrients such as beta-carotene, folic acid, lutein and vitamin K. Plus, research has shown that plant-based foods may be especially good for curbing cognitive decline.

Daily recommended intake: Aim for about 1/4 of a cup per day, or 1.5 to 2 cups a week.

Nuts

Nuts are lauded as a source of protein and healthy fats. But they’re also great brain foods. Each nut has unique benefits, and including pistachios, macadamias and almonds in your diet will definitely support your brain health. But for a real mental power boost, turn to walnuts. They’re packed with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, both of which are important for preventing mental decline.

Daily recommended intake: A 2021 study found that adults who consumed 15 to 30 grams of nuts per day had notably higher cognitive scores than those who ate less.

Coffee and tea

You may be accustomed to drinking coffee or tea to stay awake, but these caffeinated beverages have more to offer than a simple morning perk-up. Researchers have noted caffeine’s ability to boost the brain’s information-processing capacity, and coffee also packs many powerful antioxidants, which may help support brain health. In addition to both of these, green tea is rich in L-theanine. This powerful amino acid can help manage stress and anxiety, which is important for brain function.

Daily recommended intake: Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day (about four cups of coffee or black tea) is generally considered safe for most adults.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are one of the best foods for brain health, thanks to their rich lycopene content. This powerful carotenoid has been shown to help stave off cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. One fresh, medium tomato contains about 3.2 milligrams of lycopene, and you can also find even more in tomato sauces, pastes and ketchup.

Daily recommended intake: Studies show that 9 to 21 milligrams of lycopene per day may be most beneficial.

Whole grains

Whole grains like whole wheat, oatmeal, barley and brown rice are essential parts of a balanced diet, and they’re known to support cardiovascular health. What’s less well-known is that many whole grains are rich in vitamin E, an important antioxidant that helps reduce the presence of free radicals and prevent neurological damage. Experts also favor consuming vitamin E in its natural form rather than via supplements, making whole grains a great choice for boosting vitamin E intake.

Daily recommended intake: Guidelines recommend at least three servings of whole grains per day, totaling at least 48 grams.

Broccoli

Leafy greens aren’t the only green veggies that make the list of the best foods for brain health. Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables are also important. These vegetables contain high doses of glucosinolates. When combined with water, these compounds produce isothiocyanates, powerful metabolites known to have neuroprotective properties.

Daily recommended intake: The USDA recommends that adults eat 1.5 to 2.5 grams of cruciferous vegetables per week.

Salmon and tuna

You may make it a habit to avoid fatty foods, but when it comes to fish, fat is a good thing. Fish such as salmon and tuna are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are associated with many positive health outcomes, including for the brain. In particular, these healthy fats have been tied to lower levels of beta-amyloid in the blood. This damaging protein forms clumps in the brain that often lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Daily recommended intake: Aim for at least two servings of low-mercury fish such as salmon and light tuna per week.

Berries

An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but a bunch of berries keeps mental decline at bay. Berries are one of the best brain foods because they’re packed with flavonoids. Not only do these natural pigments make berries colorful, but they also improve brain function, particularly when it comes to memory.

Daily recommended intake: Eating at least two servings (half a cup each) of berries per week has been shown to slow memory decline by as much as two-and-a-half years.

Dark chocolate

If you’re looking for food that’s good for your brain, a delicious treat like dark chocolate might not come to mind. But dark chocolate brings together many of the benefits of the other foods on this list. It’s full of antioxidants, flavonoids and caffeine, making it one of the more brain-healthy foods you can eat. Don’t say I didn’t give you any good news.

Daily recommended intake: A small snack of dark chocolate, 30 to 60 grams a few times a week, may help improve brain function. Make sure it’s at least 70% dark to get the most benefits and limit calories from sugar.

Seeds

They may be small, but seeds are as nutrient-packed as many nuts, and they make a great snack to munch on. Sunflower seeds, in particular, are rich in vitamin E, whose brain benefits we’ve discussed above. Pumpkin seeds are also a potent source of antioxidants and important minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium and zinc. Each of these minerals can help guard against cognitive decline or brain disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, depression and even epilepsy.

Daily recommended intake: Try to eat 1/8 to 1/4 of a cup of seeds, three or four times a week. You can mix up the types, from pumpkin and sunflower seeds to chia seeds and ground flaxseeds.

Eggs

This go-to breakfast food isn’t just good for a morning protein punch. Eggs are also rich in several important B vitamins, including B6, B12 and B9 (folic acid). Studies show that these vitamins may help prevent brain shrinkage and curb mental decline in older adults.

Daily recommended intake: For most adults, one egg a day is a good target. Your doctor may recommend more or less based on your overall health and cholesterol levels.

Turmeric

Your spice rack probably isn’t the first place you think to look when you’re considering good brain foods. But turmeric, a major ingredient in curry powders, isn’t something you’ll want to overlook if you want to support a healthy mind. Turmeric contains curcumin, which has been linked to various positive outcomes for brain health, from protecting against Alzheimer’s to supporting brain cell growth.

Daily recommended intake: Because turmeric is a spice, you likely won’t be able to get as much as you need simply from cooking with it. Speak with your doctor about whether a curcumin supplement would be a good option for you.

Supplements for a healthy brain

In brain health, as with any type of nutrition, it’s best to meet most or all of your needs through your normal daily diet. In other words, eating the foods we’ve looked at above is the best way to keep your brain functioning well for the long haul.

However, if you find it difficult to get what you need with these brain foods, it may be helpful to include some supplements in your diet. You might consider supplements or multivitamins containing any of the following:

  • B vitamins, especially B6, B12 and B9
  • Vitamin C
  • Beta-carotene
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Curcumin
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

Brain health is critical to your overall health and well-being, so be sure to consult your physician before you add any supplements to your diet.

 

Source: cnet.com, Luke Daugherty

Epilepsy can’t be cured, but you still can enjoy life to the fullest

Epilepsy can’t be cured, but you still can enjoy life to the fullest

Epilepsy can impact physical and emotional well-being, but treatments can help.

Epilepsy can severely affect your quality of life, and while there is no cure for epilepsy, there are interventions that can prevent symptoms, counteract side effects of medicines and control seizures. In other words, epilepsy doesn’t have to sideline you from the game of life.

In order to determine the best treatment plan for managing epilepsy, it is important to understand the impact that psychosocial factors have on your life and how that interacts with an epilepsy diagnosis.

The impact of epilepsy

Epilepsy can affect your physical mobility, memory and even your ability to work or drive, so treatment is crucial. In addition to these physical effects, the emotional impact of epilepsy on a patient should not be understated.

“We look at the whole person to figure out their psychosocial history and assess appropriate interventions,” said Caitlin Zoeller, LCSW, social worker with Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Centers. “That means taking a detailed inventory of someone’s emotional, mental and physical health to get a complete picture.”

Epilepsy and medications to treat it may impair concentration, affect energy levels, or lead to anxiety or depression that ultimately affect a patient’s quality of life. A psychosocial assessment helps providers ensure that an intervention plan treats the whole patient. They may recommend medication, surgical treatment, support groups, physical therapy or driving assessments to support the patient’s journey.

Education is key

It is important to have patience with yourself and others as you process your diagnosis and condition. In addition to understanding your psychosocial history, it also can be important to educate friends, family and co-workers about the condition.

“People see things on TV or in movies about people with epilepsy,” Caitlin said. “Epilepsy symptoms vary widely. People might make assumptions about your condition that don’t necessarily apply to you.”

The first step is to educate the people around you about your epilepsy and to be honest about your limitations.

“You want to make sure they understand how epilepsy may impact your life, like not being able to drive after a seizure or missing work,” Caitlin said.

You also can invite people to educate themselves.

“Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Centers have an abundance of resources for patients to use and share with others,” Caitlin said. “The most important piece of advice I can share is that you don’t have to go it alone if you have epilepsy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

 

Source: nortonhealthcare.com, Sara Thompson

Living with intention: Life as a student with Epilepsy

Living with intention: Life as a student with Epilepsy

Kiley Flowers, a DePaul University senior, lives with epilepsy, a neurological disorder  characterized by recurrent episodes of seizures. She lives independently in the city and is able to lead a functional life taking classes, hanging out with her roommates and, most importantly, is seizure-free.

Flowers first received her diagnosis in 2014.

This diagnosis came after experiencing seizure episodes and doctor and hospital visits at 13. She was told by doctors that she would never be able to live on her own, never be able to drive and would most likely be collecting disability for the rest of her life.

“In some ways, I was relieved that I finally knew what was wrong with me,” Flowers said. “For so long, they had no idea what my diagnosis was, but ultimately, it felt like my life was over.”

Kiley also recalled that with the diagnoses, she began having severe depression in which she would not even be able to get out of bed, soon accepting that looming seizures were her fate forever.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 3.4 million people are living with epilepsy nationwide. If left untreated, it can result in long-lasting seizures, and in rare cases SUDEP, which is sudden unexpected death.

Yet, every assumption her doctors have had about the future have been untrue. After spending years changing medications, with the help of her doctor, she was able to secure the perfect prescription. She is happy to report that she is thriving at DePaul. She even notes that it has changed her mind set to appreciate her life.

“I never take getting out of the bed in the morning for granted because there were days that I thought I wouldn’t ever be able to,” she said.

Epilepsy has also affected the lives of her roommates who felt as if their lives had also been changed by epilepsy, but for them, it was for the better.

“Living with someone with epilepsy has made me more aware of hazards that I used to never think twice about,” wrote Nadia Chavez, Flowers’ roommate, in an email.

She talked to me about a time that the light started flickering in their apartment bathroom and Chavez would have thought nothing about it originally but remembered the negative effects on Kiley and made sure to change it.

This is not without work. Flowers has created a lifestyle for herself that has been able to ensure there are not unexpected seizures. Her day includes daily walks, midday naps, rigorous medications and making sure she stays out of flashing lighting.

The university also ensures that Flowers and every other student living with her same diagnoses can live and study safely. When reaching out to the Center for Students with Disabilities, assistant director, T.C Schneck commented that students with epilepsy at DePaul are set up for success and said students can “… submit a Seizure Action Plan, which is written and signed by their doctor.”

This plan would list:

  1. The kinds of seizures the student experiences and how often they occur.
  2. The corresponding symptoms of each seizure type.
  3. Specific actions faculty should take in regards to each seizure.

With these added security measures, Flowers is able to pursue an education with DePaul.

Flowers is fortunate enough to not let the diagnoses define her. Her medications have been consistent for the past two years, which is why she is able to tell her story today.

“With getting the diagnoses and being on meds, you have to get in the mindset of being prepared if things go wrong because things go wrong in an instant,” she said. This is why she believes she is so mindful and intentional about her life. She has to value every second she has because she knows what it was like to not know if she would be alive the next day.

While Flowers’ future is unknown, she knows that she will value every day she has and that the education and independence she feels grateful to receive was not without years of struggle. Flowers is currently on track to graduate with a master’s in PR and advertising next year. She remains intentional and while she will carry epilepsy with her for the rest of her life, she is glad she can live it out.

 

Source: depauliaonline.com, Madeline Ruhl

Potential treatment target for rare form of infant epilepsy identified

Potential treatment target for rare form of infant epilepsy identified

Research from Tufts University School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences lends hope to families of patients with infantile spasms syndrome.

New research from Tufts University School of Medicine and the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences suggests that the timing of the death of certain inhibitory neurons in the brain shortly after birth may be at least partly to blame for infantile spasms syndrome (ISS), a rare but devastating form of epilepsy that develops most frequently between four and eight months of age but can emerge within weeks of birth until ages 4 or 5.

Their research in mice suggests both a potential new target for treatment and raises the hope that, in the future, early diagnosis and treatment could detect and prevent some of the most significant impairments associated with the syndrome. The research was published Jan. 30 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Approximately 2,000 to 2,500 new cases of infantile spasms syndrome are diagnosed each year. In most cases infants appear to be developing normally until they develop seizures that look like a sudden bending forward of the body and stiffening of the arms and legs. Some infants arch their backs as they extend their arms and legs. Some have hundreds of these seizures each day. While infantile spasms usually stop by age five, they are replaced by other types of seizures. Infants and children with the condition frequently have abnormal electroencephalograms (EEGs), significant neurological impairments, and are at higher risk for autism.

“Early treatment of seizures can improve outcomes, but most available therapies are not effective and can cause significant complications, including blindness,” explains the study’s corresponding author, Chris Dulla, associate professor of neuroscience at the School of Medicine and program faculty at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Neuronal Balancing Act

Research on the disease has focused on the role played by various pathways that control the balance between two types of neurons in the brain: excitatory and inhibitory neurons. Most neurons in the brain are excitatory, activating other neurons and creating electrical signals to drive brain functions. Inhibitory neurons restrain that neuronal firing.

While the molecular causes of ISS are not well defined, disrupted inhibitory GABAergic network development has been implicated in multiple mouse models.

GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) interneurons are the main inhibitory neurons in the central nervous system, and they play a critical role in a variety of processes including cognitive function and information integration and processing. Dysfunctional GABA interneuron activity can disrupt the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurons in the cerebral cortex of the brain.

Researchers have identified several genes associated with ISS, all of which are linked to the b-catenin signaling pathway, which helps to regulate the balance of excitatory and inhibitory neurons in the brain. “During normal brain development, too many inhibitory interneurons are made, but then disappear,” explains Dulla. “Research suggests that an overabundance of interneuron death seems to occur at the same time as the spasms associated with ISS develop.”

In their research, the Tufts scientists focused their studies on the b-catenin signaling pathway in a mouse model, originally developed by neuroscientist and School of Medicine professor Michele Jacob, that develops a condition analogous to ISS. The mice also demonstrate intellectual disabilities and behavioral abnormalities corresponding to human autism spectrum disorder.

The researchers determined that cortical parvalbumin-positive interneuron development and function are altered in the mice. These neurons are the largest class of GABAergic, inhibitory neurons in the central nervous system.

Their research also suggests that it may be the timing of inhibitory neuron cell death which is important, not just the fact that it happens. “If the inhibitory neurons are dying too quickly, this enables the excitatory neurons to go wild,” Dulla explains.

“We saw that the levels of excitatory neuronal activity were increased at all ages,” notes Rachael F. Ryner, the lead author of the study who received her PhD from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 2022. “But the interplay between excitatory and inhibitory neurons is extraordinarily complex. Because we see a couple of treatments that work in some children but not all, we believe ISS really has a wide range of causes.”

The new research raises a myriad of questions. If scientists find one or more mechanisms that cause inhibitory neurons to die too quickly, can that process be slowed or timed appropriately to prevent at least some ISS cases from developing, or at least minimize the damage ISS is associated with? Because multiple genes seem to be involved in the development of ISS, should genetic screening be performed to identify infants at risk? And lastly, could those at risk then be given specialized EEGs early in life to detect abnormal brain events, and successful treatments provided before permanent damage occurs?

Research reported in this article was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke under award R01-NS100706, CURE Epilepsy as part of the Infantile Spasm Initiative, and The American Epilepsy Society. Complete information on authors, funders, and conflicts of interest is available in the published paper. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funders.

Source: eurekalert.org, Tufts University

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