Brain Stimulation Counteracts Dangerous Side Effect of Seizures

Loss of consciousness is a common and dangerous side effect of epileptic seizures. A new Yale-led study, however, shows that activation of electrodes in key brain areas can awaken rats with induced seizures.

“At least a quarter of people with epilepsy have seizures that can’t be controlled,” said Dr. Hal Blumenfeld, professor of neurology, neurobiology, and neurosurgery, and senior author of the study. “Our hope is that for this population, brain stimulation can help reduce injuries and deaths that result from a loss of consciousness.”

Blumenfeld and colleagues brought rats back to consciousness after seizures by stimulating the thalamus and areas of the brain stem known to play a role in wakefulness. The rats immediately began to explore their cages again.

Additional testing needs to be done to determine if such brain stimulation can be conducted safely in humans, he said.

There may be as many as 500,000 epilepsy patients in the United States who suffer from chronic, treatment-resistant seizures, Blumenfeld estimated. These patients might be aided by implants of electrodes that could prevent loss of consciousness during and follow seizures, he said.

The image is a drawing of a rat with an electrode cap on. There is a computer showing the brain waves when the rat is at rest, and a computer showing the brain waves when the rat is active.
Brain stimulation can restore consciousness in a rat after seizure. Credit Blumenfeld lab.
About this epilepsy research

Lead author of the paper is Yale’s Abhijeet Gummadavelli.

Primary funding for the research was provided by the National Institutes of Health.

NeuroscienceNews would like to thank Bill Hathaway for submitting this article to us.
Contact: Bill Hathaway – Yale
Source: Yale press release
Image Source: The image is credited to Blumenfeld lab/Yale
Original Research: Abstract for “Thalamic stimulation to improve level of consciousness after seizures: Evaluation of electrophysiology and behavior” by Abhijeet Gummadavelli, Joshua E. Motelow, Nicholas Smith, Qiong Zhan, Nicholas D. Schiff and Hal Blumenfeld in Epilepsia. Published online December 2 2014 doi:10.1111/epi.12872

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