May 2, 2022

The Brain ‘Learns’ to Have Seizures More Efficiently and Frequently Over Time, Mouse Study Shows

Article published by STAT

Featuring the research of former CURE Epilepsy grantee Dr. Juliet Knowles

Calculus. Ballroom dancing. The words to your favorite song. There’s practically no limit to what your brain can learn. But a new study suggests that the same process that allows you to hold onto new information and skills could also make certain neurological diseases worse.

Scientists found that mice and rats that suffered from seizures commonly seen in people with epilepsy developed changes in the wiring of their brains that advanced the disease. A closer look showed that the cementing of these signals was driven by a process that also supports learning, memory, and attention.

The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience, is the first to report that a key feature of the brain’s ability to change and adapt, known as activity-dependent myelination, can contribute to disease. Researchers found that blocking this process reduced the number of seizures in the animals they studied.

They’re now following up to see if these findings hold true in people. Scientists are also exploring whether these results apply to other conditions, such as substance use and mental health disorders. It’s all part of an effort to better understand and treat patients for whom current medications aren’t effective.

“Prior to this, we didn’t know such a thing existed,” said Juliet Knowles, a Stanford physician-scientist and the study’s lead author. “This is perhaps a new frontier.”