Scientists in southern England say they've developed a new technique to deal with epilepsy. It involves far more specific identification of the regions in the brain that trigger seizures. The idea is that surgeons can then perform far more precise interventions. Mark Goodfellow is with the Center for Biomedical Modeling and Analysis at the University of Exeter.
We are aiming to tackle one of the most important problems in epilepsy research which is to define the region of brain tissue that needs to be resected in order to render a patient's seizure free.
Well, when you say resected, you mean cut out?
Cut out. Yes, exactly. And the neurosurgery team is faced with several bits of data that they have to collate in order to define a surgical plan. And this data involves electrographic recording, so data of the electrical fields of the brain, they are recorded via a set of sensors. They are implanted under the skull. And what we've done is take this data and build a network model of the brain. So we make a representation of the brain that is a network where each of the different nodes corresponds to a sensor that is recording this electrical information. And we can calculate the degree of correlation between these electros to build a network representation. And what we've done is to put a mathematical model onto this network so that we can simulate the dynamics of the brain. So we can simulate the recordings that would be observed in patients. And this allows us to get a sense of how prone these networks are to the generating seizures. And it also allows us to test different surgical strategies in the model and calculate or quantify the extent to which these strategies would lead to a reduction in seizures.
And how have you been able to test those models, test you know both how precise you are in terms of mapping where the seizures are and also how different interventions might work?
So to do this, we've utilized some excellent data from our colleagues in Berne in Switzerland. And they have a data set where they studied 16 patients who have undergone surgical treatment for epilepsy. And they've managed to map on the position of the electros that we record from to the locations of the brain that we have actually removed, so we know whereon network is in the brain, we know which nodes of that network have actually been removed in the surgery.