Researchers make waves into what awakens epilepsy

Sep 29, 2010 By Brian Murphy

A University of Alberta research team has discovered a potential new trigger for epileptic seizures that strike during deep sleep.

Epilepsy is a medical condition that causes normal electrical activity in the brain to suddenly spike and become an overwhelming storm of electrical signals that can temporarily cause the sufferer to lose self awareness and even consciousness. Millions of people world-wide are affected.

Psychology researcher at the U of A Clayton Dickson and his team went looking for the triggering event in the brain that brings on an epileptic event. They focused on a part of the brain that is prone to what Dickson describes as a particularly devastating type of epilepsy.

“Unlike other forms of the condition, in a large proportion of cases of complex partial epilepsy can’t be controlled with drugs,” said Dickson. “Usually surgery on the is the only option.”

Dickson says strike while people are awake and asleep. “While we’re sleeping the brain may seem like its offline, but there’s lots of co-ordinated going on to perform important tasks like memory retention.”

Dickson’s team looked at a stage of sleep-like known as slow wave and found that in the highly sensitive temporal lobe of the brain, the slow waves themselves can allow to suddenly and inexplicably spike out of control.

Dickson says that until now, research into what triggers an epileptic seizure hadn’t targeted this specific period of activity in the temporal lobe region of the brain.

“We’ve opened the door to new ways of thinking about the onset of certain epileptic events. There’s no cure for epilepsy, but this research shows us that during deep sleep someone suffering complex partial is really vulnerable.”

Explore further: Neuroscientist develops brain vitality index

More information: The work of Dickson and fellow U of A researchers was published earlier this month by the Journal of Neurophysiology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Research sheds new light on epilepsy

Nov 30, 2009

Pioneering research using human brain tissue removed from people suffering from epilepsy has opened the door to new treatments for the disease.

Study: Theta rhythm reduces seizure rate

Jun 20, 2006

Texas scientists say the brain's septum helps stop epileptic seizures by inducing electrical activity in another area of the brain called the hippocampus.

Recommended for you

Neuroscientist develops brain vitality index

5 hours ago

Why is it we are happy to talk about our physical health, like exercise and diet but we are not comfortable talking about brain health? One measure of body health is the body mass index (BMI) but what single ...

New tools help neuroscientists analyze 'big data'

Jul 27, 2014

In an age of "big data," a single computer cannot always find the solution a user wants. Computational tasks must instead be distributed across a cluster of computers that analyze a massive data set together. ...

User comments : 0