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New Accurate Non-Invasive Method For Diagnosing Epilepsy Discovered By Scientists

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New Accurate Non-Invasive Method For Diagnosing Epilepsy Discovered By Scientists

A team of biomedical engineers  from University of Minnesota and researches at Mayo Clinic have discovered a new non-invasive method for the diagnosis of epilepsy. This is an innovative method that can diagnose epilepsy immediately after a seizure, unlike current diagnosis methods that are used during seizures. The research, which was published in the Brain, the international journal of neurology, can represent a step forward for future treatment of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is a neurological disease that is manifested by seizures.  Epilepsy seizures are recurrent and spontaneous seizures that are typically unprovoked and unpredictable. However,  seizures have several trigger factors, such as flash lights, reading, febrile illness, stress, sleep deprivation and others. Epilepsy seizures may also occur after brain surgery and also exist forms of epilepsy that occur only in childhood. Epilepsy symptoms can not be cured, only controlled by drugs.

According to The International Classification of Seizures, epilepsy seizures are divided into partial seizures ( focal or localization-related seizures) and generalized seizures. Partial seizures are subdivided into simple partial seizures in which there is no loss of consciousness and into complex partial seizures which are always associated with loss of consciousness. Generalized seizures are the result of a paroxysmal discharge that probably begins in thalamus and then spreads to other brain structures, but on electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings, they appear to start simultaneously in both cerebral hemispheres. Generalized seizures are always associated with loss of consciousness and generalized symptoms are divided into tonic-clonic, tonic, clonic, myoclonic, atonic and absence (petit mal) seizures.

Epilepsy Seizures

Epilepsy Seizures

It is important to control epilepsy symptoms because may  have various consequences, such as falling or complications during childbirth. There is a fatal complication, which occur very rare, called sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP) and occurs mostly in patients with frequent uncontrolled tonico-clonic seizures.

Epilepsy diagnosis is not easy and requires medical history, EEG tests, blood tests and imaging tests. The biggest challenge for medical researchers is to locate the part of the brain involved  seizures occurrence, in order to determine new possible treatments. In the past, most scientists studying patients while they were having a seizure (in ictal phase) and some of these studies involved invasive methods in order to collect data.

In this research, biomedical engineers  from University of Minnesota and scientists from Mayo Clinic used a novel method for studying the brains of 28 patients immediately after seizures (in postictal phase). This method is represented by a specialized type of non-invasive EEG with 76 electrodes attached to the scalp for gathering data in contrast to most previous research that used 32 electrodes. The researchers also used specialized imaging technology to gather data about the exact part of the brain which is causing seizures. Researchers found that, in severe form of epilepsy, most frequently seizures originated in the frontal lobe. They also found that adults have seizures that originate in the temporal lobe. The findings may lead in the future to innovative non-invasive methods of locating the brain regions responsible for seizures.

This new discovery is a step forward not only in the diagnosis of epilepsy, but possibly in the treatment of this neurological disease. The imaging technology that we developed here at the University of Minnesota allowed us to tackle this research and gather several thousand data points that helped us determine our findings, said Bin He,  the senior author of the study.