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Epilepsy

The Outlook

Last modified: 
22/03/2012 - 12:53

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

The outlook for epilepsy is good. According to a recent conference of neuroscience researchers and clinicians held on the disease at the National Institutes of Health, a cure for epilepsy is conceivable within the next 10 or 20 years.

Research is underway to increase understanding of the body mechanisms that cause epilepsy, such as brain chemistry and genetic abnormalities. This research allows for the development of new medications for epilepsy.

New diagnostic techniques are becoming available that will help determine the type of epilepsy and the area of the brain in which seizures occur.

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is being used in some medical centers to detect magnetic signals generated by the nerve cells in the brain. MEG is like EEG but does not require electrodes and can measure signals from deeper within the brain. MEG makes it possible to monitor activity in different parts of the brain over a period of time, revealing different brain functions.

Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) is a more sensitive type of CT scan that can map the inside of the brain. This technique is sometimes used to locate seizure activity in the brain.

Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) can detect abnormalities in the brain's biochemical processes and near-infrared spectroscopy can detect oxygen levels in brain tissue.

Researchers are also working on new devices to treat epilepsy.

  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation applies strong magnets to the outside of the head to influence brain activity.
  • Work is also being done to develop implantable devices to deliver drugs to specific areas of the brain, and with a device that may be able to predict seizures a few minutes before they occur.
  • Work is also being done on cell transplantation from fetal pig brains to correct abnormalities in the brain chemistry of people with epilepsy.
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Epilepsy

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From Andrew Maynard - Chair of the University of Michigan Department of Environmental Health Sciences, with help from David Faulkner - 2013 Master of Public Health graduate.