A potential new treatment for childhood epilepsy
EEG-biofeedback is a non-invasive learning strategy that can enable a person to alter his/her brain wave activity. It has already been shown to be a safe and effective therapeutic option for some adults with epilepsy, but as yet there are no data available for children. Mrs Gina Parker and colleagues, at Birmingham Children’s Hospital NHS Trust, have been awarded £9,965 over 12 months, for pilot grant entitled Feasibility of EEG-biofeedback as a potential treatment for benign childhood epilepsy with centro-temporal spikes (BCECTS), in which they will assess the feasibility of using EEG-biofeedback as a therapeutic tool in children with BCECTS.
BCECTS (or Rolandic epilepsy) is the most common childhood epilepsy syndrome, but because seizures often occur at night, and are usually ‘outgrown’ in adolescence, it is often left untreated. Research now suggests that disruption to sleep during BCECTS can cause memory problems, and so the need to treat is being reviewed. Many parents are reluctant to have their child take anti-epileptic drugs (which can have pronounced side effects), especially when their seizures don’t obviously affect their daily life, and so a non-invasive approach would be very welcome.
During the study the team will recruit children with a diagnosis of BCECTS, who are not being prescribed any medication. Each child will be asked to attend a neurology appointment, where they will undergo a baseline 24-hour EEG assessment. Their EEG activity will be analysed on-line; and it will then be used to drive a video game, which will be displayed on a screen for the child to see. The child will then be asked to ‘work the video with their brain’; and the system will be set up so that the video game moves faster when the brain is relaxed. In this way the child will be trained to maintain a state of brain relaxation (less prone to seizures), and they will be able to see when they are achieving this state. The children will attend regular 30-minute training sessions with for six weeks, and they will receive video feedback every week. The researchers will compare the ‘current’ EEG to the baseline 24-hour EEG at specific time points during training, in order to measure a child’s progress. They will also compare the frequency of EEG abnormalities during the 24-hour recording at baseline and at the end of the study, to see if there has been any reduction.
If successful, this pilot grant will hopefully prompt larger studies into EEG-biofeedback as a new, non-invasive treatment for BCECTS.