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Electrical Brain Stimulation Curbs Epileptic Seizures in Rats
Date:8/9/2012

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Aug. 9 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers report that they have created a device able to short-circuit epileptic seizures in rats.

Similar in design to an implantable defibrillator, the device is placed in the brain and reacts only when a seizure starts to occur, essentially aborting the seizure's electrical activity.

The self-adjusting device electrically stimulates the brain at the beginning of a short but frequent type of seizure in rats, and then automatically shuts itself off. The research was published in the Aug. 10 issue of the journal Science.

"It works like a ping-pong game," explained study author Dr. Gyorgy Buzsaki, a professor of neural science at New York University. "Every time a ball is coming your way, you apply an interfering pattern to whack it away."

Epilepsy is a brain disorder in which a person has repeated seizures over time. It affects nearly 3 million Americans, according to the Epilepsy Foundation, making it the third most common neurological disorder in the United States, after Alzheimer's and stroke.

People with epilepsy can suffer from two different kinds of seizures: petit mal seizures, which last for just a few seconds but can occur frequently, and grand mal seizures, which are rare but involve violent muscle contractions and a loss of consciousness.

Seizures are episodes of disturbed brain activity that cause changes in attention or behavior. Brain cells keep firing instead of acting in an organized way. The malfunctioning electrical system of the brain causes surges of energy that can cause unconsciousness and muscle contractions.

The researchers tested the new device against petit mal seizures in rats because this type of seizure occurs hundreds of times a day. The sheer volume of the seizures allowed the scientists to effectively test the system they designed. People with petit mal seizures are ty
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