November 18, 2021

Epilepsy Research News: November 2021

This month’s research news includes two studies examining the underlying causes of epilepsy that have uncovered potential targets for future epilepsy therapy development. These studies pinpoint two possible mechanisms – a decrease in the brain enzyme called SLK and a dysfunction in a type of brain cell called the somatostatin interneuron – that leads to overexcitation of the brain and seizures.

Also included in this month’s news is a recent study led by researchers at Rutgers University that found that combining electroencephalogram (EEG) data with clinical observations in a new statistical model can help doctors better determine whether patients with generalized epilepsy will respond to treatment.

Lastly, we spotlight a study which finds that short sounds played during sleep can partially suppress epileptic brain discharges characteristic of Rolandic epilepsy, a form of childhood epilepsy where seizures and other atypical brain activity primarily occurs during sleep. Additionally, we share a study finding a non-invasive strategy to select pediatric epilepsy surgery candidates.

Summaries of these articles are presented below:

Understanding the Role of the Brain Enzyme SLK in Seizures: 
Researchers at the University of Bonn have shed light on the function of the brain enzyme SLK in epilepsy. This enzyme appears to be important in maintaining normal levels of brain activity. If the enzyme is missing, neurons in the brain have difficulty inhibiting the activity of other brain cells, which can lead to overexcitation of neurons in the brain and seizures. This is supported by the fact that there is less SLK in diseased brain tissue from epilepsy patients. These findings may ultimately help to improve epilepsy treatments. Learn more

Understanding the Role of the Somatostatin Interneuron Brain Cell in Seizures: Researchers have uncovered how a type of brain cells called somatostatin interneurons can lead to seizures when they do not function properly. These brain cells are typically thought to function as a built-in brake system to safeguard against excessive activity in the brain and prevent seizures. However, the research team at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found that, when dysfunctional, the brain cells drive excessive brain activity and seizures. The researchers state that targeting these cells could lead to new treatments for epilepsy. Learn more

Predicting Response to Epilepsy Treatment: Combining EEG data with clinical observations can help doctors better determine whether patients with generalized epilepsy will respond to treatment, according to a study led by researchers at Rutgers University. The study uses a new statistical model that is 80 percent accurate in distinguishing between drug-resistant and drug-responsive generalized epilepsy. The results of the study indicate that clinicians should consider obtaining more comprehensive EEG studies, and that combining clinical and EEG factors together may provide better answers than using clinical observations alone. Learn more

Reducing Rolandic Epilepsy with Sound During Sleep: Research has found that short sounds played during sleep can partially suppress the epileptic discharges characteristic of Rolandic epilepsy, a form of childhood epilepsy in which seizures and other atypical brain activity often occurs during sleep. In the study, the research team recorded the electrical brain activity of seven children with Rolandic epilepsy and seven healthy control subjects of the same age during sleep. The researchers found that softly played sounds reduced both the frequency and intensity of epileptic discharges in the children with Rolandic epilepsy. Learn more

Selecting Pediatric Surgical Candidates Non-Invasively: A new study has found that selecting children with epileptic spasms for surgery based on factors such as the location and extent of lesions detected on an MRI of the brain and preexisting deficits yields seizure-free results comparable to a strategy that includes invasive monitoring which requires monitoring via a device that is placed inside the head. This MRI-based approach reduces risk of an invasive procedure and allows surgery to be conducted more quickly. Learn more

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