July 29, 1999 Using techniques similar to weather forecasting, researchers at the University of Toronto have begun unravelling the dynamics of epileptic seizures.
In a study led by Dr. J.L. Perez-Velazquez, assistant professor of medicine and neurology at U of T's Bloorview Epilepsy Research Program, researchers were able to predict seizures using nonlinear dynamics techniques similar to those used in the study of complex patterns like weather prediction. "The idea is to control the seizure by forecasting its arrival and manipulating it with electric stimulation in specific neuronal pathways," says Perez-Velazquez, also a researcher at the Toronto Western Hospital.
The study marks the discovery of the occurrence of a particular dynamic regime -- type III intermittency -- that takes place during seizures in patients with intractable epilepsy, a form of the disease that cannot be treated with medication. Intermittency is characterized by regular brain activity which is present for varying periods of time and interrupted by phases of turbulence which lead to seizures. By determining the patterns of intermittency in brain activity, Perez-Velazquez believes this approach will improve techniques to control the brain's transition to seizure.
Researchers studied 24 seizures in five patients with intractable epilepsy and report their findings in the July edition of the European Journal of Neuroscience. About two per cent of the world's population suffers from epilepsy and a quarter of those cases are intractable.
Steven de Sousa
U of T Public Affairs
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