Epileptic seizures occur when a group of neurons in the brain produce their own rhythmic, supercharged electrical activity, different from what the brain needs or wants. For example, seizures that occur in the motor areas of the brain result in repeated, uncontrollable jerking motions. When these electrical jolts come from “lesions” or structural abnormalities in the brain that can be seen on imaging scans, surgeons can often remove them and cure the problem if drug therapy has failed.
The real challenge occurs when treatment doesn’t help epileptic seizures that sprout from brains that “look” fine on imaging scans. Then, surgeons use electroencephalograph (EEG) probes, placed directly on brain tissue, to try to record changes in electrical activity in order to pinpoint nerve cells at fault. “But this has been kind of like looking at a forest fire from a spaceship,” says Mayo Clinic neurologist Gregory Worrell, M.D., Ph.D. “By the time it can be seen, the electrical activity has spread into parts of the brain that have nothing to do with where the fire started.”
Now, Dr. Worrell, a specialist in epilepsy, and other researcher-physicians at Mayo Clinic, have found that using probes that pick up higher frequencies of rhythmic electrical oscillations than is traditional, does a better job of finding out where a seizure originates in the brain so that this tissue can be surgically removed.
Results of their 61-patient study were presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. Researchers concluded that successfully locating a focal high-frequency pattern was a strong predictor of good surgical outcomes for epilepsy patients. And Dr. Worrell says that because an estimated 2.5 million Americans have epilepsy, as do 50 million people worldwide —this tweaking of an old technique could prove to be very beneficial for the third of U.S. patients who are candidates for surgery. The scientists are studying the strategy further in a larger group of patients, with support from the National Institutes of Health.
Below is a link to an edited youtube video with Dr. Worrell that you can embed with your stories.