The researchers say this is an early step in creating a model that can provide far more detail about the inner workings of the brain than is possible with electrodes alone.
"Electrodes reveal the consequence of the abnormal brain activity, but they don't get at the cause," said Szeri. "If we understand why and how these strong coherent waves progress over the surface of the brain, then we have a hope of doing something to change the situation by disrupting the signal."
Much like a computer model can reveal more about the structural integrity of a building or the causes of a developing hurricane than is practical or desirable through direct observation, a computer simulation of a brain during a seizure could potentially provide a fuller picture of how and why electrical signals misfire.
"This model could provide insight into the pathophysiology of the spread of a seizure," said Kirsch. "Further down the line, this could also help us model the impact of medications and other interventions, to theoretically test how drugs with certain mechanisms will impact the brain."
The researchers point to ongoing research to develop interventions to halt epileptic seizures. Examples of potential directed therapies include focal cooling, in which the part of the brain experiencing a seizure is literally chilled to dampen the seizure, and electrical stimulation of the affected area of the brain to counter the seizure as it's forming.
"Our hope is to provide a model that can be used to evaluate potential seizure treatments so we can move beyond the need for lobectomies," said Szeri.
The National Science Foundation and a Berkeley Fellowship from the University of California helped support this research.