Carnegie Mellon researchers have found that the spreading of seizures through the brain can be suppressed based on the pressure within the brain. The discovery could revolutionize the treatment of drug-resistant epilepsy. The lab of Bin He, Department Head, Biomedical Engineering, working with Mayo Clinic, has published a paper titled “Multiple Oscillatory Push-Pull Antagonisms Constrain Seizure Propagation” in the journal Annals of Neurology, which explains that ‘focal seizures,’ wherein the seizures originate from a single point, can be regulated by using the push-pull dynamics within the brain.
The study also shows that an imbalance of excitation-inhibition activity in an epileptic network could be a promising biomarker for the secondary generalization of the seizures, implying that when medical professional observe indications pointing towards an imbalance in the excitation and inhibition of neuron firing within the brain, the imbalance might be an indicator of the propagation of the seizures. Even though medical professionals widely regard drug-resistant focal epilepsy as a network disease, wherein seizures propagate in coordination with different neuron oscillation frequencies, the mechanism that inhibits the spread of the seizure is unclear. He and his team, studied several frequencies, including both slow and fast brain rhythms, and conducted a novel analysis of functional networks for a particular rhythmic band, i.e., the interactions between low and high brain rhythms. The team used a novel “cross-frequency directionality” technology to examine 24 focal drug-resistant epilepsy patients and found that the diffusion of seizures through the brain depends on a ‘push-pull’ antagonism control mechanism, which they believe could potentially reflect connections within the epileptic network, suppressing the seizure.
He says that future treatment options should take into consideration interventions on not only seizure onset zones, but also surrounding tissues. Further delineation of crucial network nodes may help the development of treatments for epilepsy by neuromodulation. The team’s work was funded partly by the National Institute of Mental Health, National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, National Institute of Neurological Disorders, and National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health of the National Institutes of Health.