Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

An Off Switch For Epilepsy?

Date:
May 28, 2001
Source:
The Whitaker Foundation
Summary:
Biomedical engineers have used a mild electric field to control seizure-like activity in brain cells. The work hints at the possibility of controlling epilepsy in a similar way.

ARLINGTON, Va., May 17, 2001 --- Biomedical engineers have used a mild electric field to control seizure-like activity in brain cells. The work hints at the possibility of controlling epilepsy in a similar way.

Related Articles


In a recent issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, the researchers described a feedback system that monitors brain cells for seizure-like firing. When the firing begins, the system responds by applying a mild electric field, fewer than 50 millivolts per millimeter. When the erratic firing stops, the electric field shuts off.

The applied field, whose strength is determined by the feedback loop, alters the electrical charge of the overactive nerve cells, making them less responsive to the firing of neighboring cells. Exactly how this works is still unclear and being investigated.

Bruce Gluckman, Ph.D., assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and Steven Schiff, M.D., Krasnow Professor of Neurobiology, both of George Mason University, led the research group. Collaborators included Hanh Nguyen, Ph.D., of George Mason and Steven Weinstein, M.D., of Children's National Medical Center of Washington.

Their feedback system makes it possible to control the seizure-like activity automatically and over long periods. This, combined with the low electrical field requirement, has the group thinking about the long-term possibility of medical applications.

The original experiments used brain tissue from rats. Live animal testing is now getting started and human clinical trials are under discussion. A big question will be whether brain cells in the living organism will respond to the electrical field in the same way that cells do in a laboratory culture.

The normal firing of brain cells is not well understood, but the chaotic firing characteristic of seizures can be described as a nonlinear system. "The dynamic that generates the burst is much simpler than what all of the individual actors are doing," Gluckman said.

Nonlinear dynamics have proved useful in other medical applications as well, such as defibrillators that correct irregular heartbeats. Medical scientists do not understand exactly how a jolt of electricity restores a normal heartbeat, but it does.

Gluckman's feedback system may be used to investigate some of these questions. The group can change the system's electrical settings to achieve a reverse effect, so it can be used with very precise control to initiate or aggravate seizure-like activity. It can also hold a network of brain cells on the threshold of a seizure.

"Control techniques such as those presented here, especially the ability to maintain the network so close to seizure initiation, may be useful tools to probe such basic mechanisms underlying seizure generation," the group reported.

There are about 2 million epileptics in the United States, most of whom benefit from drugs that control seizures. But about 200,000 do not respond to drug therapy and have few options, one being surgery to remove parts of the brain.

The Food and Drug Administration has approved an implant that works like a heart pacemaker by providing continuous electrical stimulation to control epileptic seizures. The device is implanted under the collarbone and stimulates the vagus nerve in the neck. A majority of patients show some improvement when using the device.

Gluckman and his colleagues, however, believe that direct stimulation of the brain may ultimately prove to be more effective. Their research was supported by The Whitaker Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by The Whitaker Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

The Whitaker Foundation. "An Off Switch For Epilepsy?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 May 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010528085412.htm>.
The Whitaker Foundation. (2001, May 28). An Off Switch For Epilepsy?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010528085412.htm
The Whitaker Foundation. "An Off Switch For Epilepsy?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010528085412.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Pet Dogs to Be Used in Anti-Ageing Trial

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) Researchers in the United States are preparing to discover whether a drug commonly used in human organ transplants can extend the lifespan and health quality of pet dogs. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Today's Prostheses Are More Capable Than Ever

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) Advances in prosthetics are making replacement body parts stronger and more lifelike than they’ve ever been. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

From Popcorn To Vending Snacks: FDA Ups Calorie Count Rules

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) The US FDA is announcing new calorie rules on Tuesday that will require everywhere from theaters to vending machines to include calorie counts. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Daily Serving Of Yogurt Could Reduce Risk Of Type 2 Diabetes

Newsy (Nov. 25, 2014) Need another reason to eat yogurt every day? Researchers now say it could reduce a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins