Electrical brain stimulation ‘could aid the treatment of epilepsy’

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Electrical brain stimulation could be used as a means of altering neural activity to help treat conditions such as epilepsy.

A team from the University of Western Australia has allied with the Universite Pierre et Marie Curie in France to conduct a new study that has revealed that electromagnetic stimulation could be used to shift abnormal neural connections to their correct locations.

Researchers used a low-intensity repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation technique to treat mice born with abnormal brain patterns, in order to better understand what affect this type of treatment may have.

Even at low intensities, the pulsed magnetic stimulation was shown to be able to reduce the number of abnormally-located neural connections, leading to changes that were reflected in the chemical balance of the brain, with ramifications across the entire network.

It is thought this technique could open up new possibilities for the treatment of many nervous system disorders that can be related to abnormal brain organisation, including epilepsy, depression and tinnitus.

Moreover, the study also demonstrated that the electrical stimulation did not have an effect on healthy brain tissue, nor did it disrupt any of the normal, function neural connections in the lab mice involved in the test. This suggests the technique could be performed on humans with a minimal risk of adverse side effects.

Lead author Kalina Makowiecki said: “Our findings greatly increase our understanding of the specific cellular and molecular events that occur in the brain during this therapy and have implications for how best to use it in humans to treat disease and improve brain function.”

Epilepsy affects more than 600,000 people in the UK, with common treatment options including antiepileptic drugs and surgical approaches. However, since these therapy approaches do not work for all patients, there remains a need for new and innovative methodologies, of which magnetic brain stimulation could be one.

Posted by Bob Jones