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Advanced technology reveals activity of single neurons during seizures
Date:3/27/2011

The first study to examine the activity of hundreds of individual human brain cells during seizures has found that seizures begin with extremely diverse neuronal activity, contrary to the classic view that they are characterized by massively synchronized activity. The investigation by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brown University researchers also observed pre-seizure changes in neuronal activity both in the cells where seizures originate and in nearby cells. The report will appear in Nature Neuroscience and is receiving advance online publication.

"Our findings suggest that different groups of neurons play distinct roles at different stages of seizures," says Sydney Cash, MD, PhD, of the MGH Department of Neurology, the paper's senior author. "They also indicate that it may be possible to predict impending seizures, and that clinical interventions to prevent or stop them probably should target those specific groups of neurons."

Epileptic seizures have been reported since ancient times, and today 50 million individuals worldwide are affected; but much remains unknown about how seizures begin, spread and end. Current knowledge about what happens in the brain during seizures largely comes from EEG readings, which reflect the average activity of millions of neurons at a time. This study used a neurotechnology that records the activity of individual brain cells via an implanted sensor the size of a baby aspirin.

The researchers analyzed data gathered from four patients with focal epilepsy seizures that originate in abnormal brain tissues that could not be controlled by medication. The participants had the sensors implanted in the outer layer of brain tissue to localize the abnormal areas prior to surgical removal. The sensors recorded the activity of from dozens to more than a hundred individual neurons over periods of from five to ten days, during which each patient experienced multiple seizures. In some
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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