Researchers in the biomedical engineering department at Case Western Reserve University have found that epileptic activity can spread through a part of the brain in a new way, suggesting a possible novel target for seizure-blocking medicines.
Evidence from a series of experiments and computer modeling strongly suggests individual cells in a part of the brain, known as the hippocampus, use a small electrical field to stimulate and synchronize neighboring cells, spreading the activity layer by layer.
The scientists report the discovery in the Journal of Neuroscience this week.
"We know there are several ways for neurons to talk with one another: chemical and electrical synaptic transmission and diffusion of ions," said Dominique Durand, professor of biomedical engineering at Case Western Reserve and the study's senior author. "But this shows a new mechanism. Neurons talk to each other cell to cell using electrical fields, propagating a wave of activity."
Durand worked with graduate students from Case Western Reserve's Neural Engineering Center: Mingming Zhang, Chen Qiu, Rajat J. Shrivacharan and Thomas P. Ladas; and Senior Research Associate Luis E. Gonzales-Reyes to investigate how epileptic seizure activity starts and spreads in the brain.
They inserted a 64-channel microelectrode array in the unfolded hippocampus of a mouse model to monitor its activity. They then injected the hippocampus, which is known to be involved in the most common form of epilepsy, with a drug to make the hippocampus epileptic.
They blocked chemical synapses from transmitting signals between neurons by reducing the calcium ion concentration below the level typically involved in signaling. They then blocked what are called "gap junctions," which electrically transmit signals across synapses, by injecting the antimalarial drug mefloquine, known to hamper the process.
Their tests showed that epileptic activity cont
|Contact: Kevin Mayhood|
Case Western Reserve University