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Image of the Week: The Roots of Epilepsy

Trespassing dendrites may be key to the development of epilepsy.

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Penfield, Epilepsy and the Functional Brain

Wilder Penfield, a neurosurgery pioneer, once had an epilepsy patient report the smell of burnt toast before a seizure onset. Learn about Penfield’s work and legacy.

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Introduction

Epilepsy is a chronic brain disorder that affects more than 50 million people worldwide. Epileptic seizures are caused by abnormal brain cell activity. They can strike at any age and produce a variety of behaviors — from a blank stare to a full body convulsion — depending on the brain region affected. While some types of epilepsy are caused by mutated genes, others result from brain injury or disease. By studying people living with epilepsy, scientists hope to develop new therapies to limit or prevent seizures. Scientific advances are pointing researchers to new ideas about how to reduce the side effects of epilepsy medications and improve therapy options for those resistant to current medications. Ongoing studies in animals and people are also illuminating the subtle changes that take place in the brain shortly before seizures begin. This insight could one day lead to new devices that predict seizure onset and interrupt abnormal brain cell activity, preventing seizures from starting.

Discoveries

Seizures and Epilepsy

Source: Society for Neuroscience
Seizures occur because of sudden, disorderly discharges of interconnected neurons in the brain that temporarily alter one or more brain functions.

Epilepsy: Making a Difference Tomorrow

Source: Society for Neuroscience
Even though most people with epilepsy respond to current treatments, many are unable to control their seizures. Researchers are developing more effective therapies and better diagnostic tools.

Epilepsy in the News

Epidemiology: The Complexities of Epilepsy

Source: Nature
Date: 10 July 2014
An estimated 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy. But research funding is low, treatment can fail and the mechanisms of the disease are a mystery.

Easing Epilepsy with Battery Power

Source: New York Times
Date: 24 March 2014
With a battery-powered device implanted the skull, and wired to the brain, electrical activity is tracked and quells impending seizures.

New Medical Device Treats Epilepsy With A Well-Timed Zap

Source: National Public Radio
Date: 16 Nov 2013
The new device, called the RNS Stimulator, sits under a patient's skull and tracks brain activity.

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