Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in the US have developed an algorithm that can automatically detect focal epileptic seizures.
In an in-human pilot trial, the researchers identified a sentinel area of the brain which can potentially offer an early warning prior to the manifestation of clinical seizures. The new algorithm is said to detect this early warning.
The researchers expect these findings to help in addressing focal epileptic seizures even before patients could feel any symptoms. This can be achieved by neurostimulation of the sentinel area.
UAB neurology assistant professor Sandipan Pati said: “This exciting finding opens up an avenue to develop brain stimulation therapy that can alter activities in the cortex by stimulating the thalamus in response to a seizure.”
The pilot study included three patients who were undergoing brain surgery for mapping the source of their focal epileptic seizures. Simultaneously, the researchers recorded the electrical activity at the anterior nucleus of their thalamus.
It was observed that these seizures, which began at the cortex outside of the thalamus, also recruited similar electrical activity in the anterior thalamic nucleus.
The team found that both these initial electrical activities occurred before clinical manifestations of the seizures.
In addition, electroencelphalography (EEG) brain recordings were used to create and validate the algorithm to automatically detect initiation of such seizure-like electrical activity in the anterior thalamic nucleus.
The researchers are planning to expand the study to more number of subjects.
Pati added: “Neurostimulation of the thalamus, instead of the cortex, would avoid interference with cognition, in particular, memory. Hopefully, after the bigger group is done, we can consider stimulating the thalamus.”