Journal scan

Scientists explore link with epilepsy and brain cooling

Ineffective treatment methods for people who have epilepsy has led to new research exploring alternative methods.

Focal cooling is a method of cooling specific areas of the brain. If these areas are focal points for the development of epileptic seizures, it is hoped that methods of focal cooling can prevent seizures occurring.

Epilepsy is one of the most common of neurological diseases. In 2016 the World Health Organization estimated that there were 50 million people living with epilepsy across the world.

Picture: Science Photo Library

For approximately 30% of people with epilepsy, treatment methods such as medication, surgery, diet and vagal nerve stimulation and so forth are ineffective. This failure has caused scientists to continue to explore alternative means of addressing the condition.

Cooling treatments are still being explored and they involve placing an inplanted cooling or thermos-electronic device into the affected area of the brain and cooling it to temperatures of 20-25°C.

Scientists involved in the research point out that it is still not understood how cooling suppresses epileptic activity and this particular study uses a computational approach to identify and investigate possible mechanisms.

So far, the techniques have been used primarily in drug-induced rats, but the results have consistently shown that, while there has been some increase in seizures, the strength of the seizures has been reduced. It is hoped these results can be improved on, the treatment continues to be developed and brings hope that an effective treatment may be found for more people with epilepsy.

Soriano J et al (2017) Differential temperature sensitivity of synaptic and firing processes in a neutral mass model of epileptic discharges explains heterogeneous response of experimental epilepsy to focal brain cooling. PLOS Computational Biology. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1005736.

This article is for subscribers only