People with epilepsy suffer from debilitating seizures. The current treatment for epilepsy is anti-seizure medication; however, these drugs are not effective in certain individuals.
For individuals with hard-to-treat epilepsy, a therapy known as deep brain stimulation (DBS) may reduce the frequency of seizures. In DBS, electrodes are implanted into the brain and are stimulated to control nerve impulses. It is thought that seizures pass through a region of the brain known as the anterior nucleus, which suggests that targeting this particular area of the brain using DBS may be of benefit; however, the long-term effectiveness of this treatment is not known.
Dr. Andres Lozano (Krembil Senior Scientist and Techna Affiliated Faculty) initiated a study to address this issue. His research team performed anterior nucleus DBS in people with hard-to-treat epilepsy, and asked the study participants to record the frequency of their seizures before and after the treatment.
The research team found that two-thirds of the study participants experienced fewer seizures after long-term DBS treatment; among those who responded to the treatment, the frequency of seizures was reduced by more than half. Using images of the brain from those who responded to DBS, the team located the specific subdivision of the anterior nucleus that received the most intense DBS therapy—suggesting that this subdivision was responsible for controlling the seizures.
"Until now, those with epilepsy who did not respond to conventional treatments represented an unmet clinical need," says Dr. Lozano. "We advocate for more research to identify those who are most likely to benefit from this promising therapy."
This work was supported by the Ronald R. Tasker Chair in Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery and the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation. A Lozano holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Neuroscience.
Anterior nucleus deep brain stimulation for refractory epilepsy: insights into patterns of seizure control and efficacious target. Krishna V, King NK, Sammartino F, Strauss I, Andrade DM, Wennberg RM, Lozano AM. Neurosurgery. PubMed PMID: 26813858. 2016 Jan 20. [Pubmed abstract]