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Researchers model brain's electrical storm during a seizure

Berkeley -- University of California researchers have created a mathematical model describing the electrical storm that rages during a brain seizure. They say the model, to be published in the March 22 print issue of the Journal of the Royal Society of London Interface, but available now to subscribers online, may eventually help neurologists better understand and treat epilepsy.

"We're trying to get to the underlying state of the brain that leads to these seizures," said Mark Kramer, a Ph.D. student in UC Berkeley's Applied Science and Technology Program and lead author of the paper. "Our hope is that the model can highlight potential areas where a seizure can be stopped."

There are several possible causes for the abnormal signaling in epilepsy, including illness, injury, abnormal brain development and an imbalance of the chemical neurotransmitters needed to convey messages in the brain. Some seizures begin in a very specific area of the brain called the "seizure focus" before spreading out, and others, particularly ones linked to genetic causes, appear to start simultaneously in various parts of the brain.

What is clear is that during a seizure, a strong pattern of electrical signals suddenly emerges from the random fluctuations that characterize normal brain activity. The strong waves moving across the cortex may cause sudden, unpredictable sensations or uncontrollable movements during a seizure.

"Normal brain waves would resemble jagged lines with no apparent pattern or order on an electroencephalogram (EEG)," said Andrew Szeri, UC Berkeley professor of mechanical engineering and applied science and technology, and principal investigator of the study. "But in the brains of epilepsy patients, the spreading of a seizure is made manifest by strong coherent waves of electrical activity in the cortex."

To model this behavior, the researchers adapted stochastic partial differential equations to describe the architecture of t
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Contact: Sarah Yang
scyang@berkeley.edu
510-643-7741
University of California - Berkeley
23-Feb-2005


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