December 14, 2023

“Awake Yet Dreaming” – How Sleep’s Brain Waves Guard Against Epilepsy

Article published by SciTechDaily

Researchers find that slow brain waves which are common in sleep, also occur in awake epilepsy patients and may protect against seizures. The research examined electroencephalogram (EEG) scans from electrodes in the brains of 25 patients with focal epilepsy (a type of epilepsy characterized by seizures arising from a specific part of the brain), while they carried out an associative memory task. The electrodes were placed in the patients’ brains to localize abnormal activity and inform surgical treatment. After reviewing the EEG data, the team found that the brains of people with epilepsy were producing slow waves – lasting less than one second – while they were awake and taking part in the task. There was a decrease in the “firing” of nerve cells, which the researchers say might protect against epileptic activity. “This study unveils a potential protective mechanism, specifically ‘wake’ slow waves, employed by the brain that may counteract epileptic activity. This mechanism takes advantage of protective brain activity that normally occurs during sleep, but in people with epilepsy, can occur during wakefulness,” senior author, Professor Matthew Walker of UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology, said. “Our study suggests that a naturally occurring activity is employed by the brain to offset pathological activities; however, this comes with a price, since ‘wake’ slow waves have been shown to impact memory performance.”