A brain scanning technique that can find the source of an epilepsy patient's fits has been unveiled by scientists in the US.
Epilepsy is a brain condition that causes patients to fit and lose consciousness. In the process they can injure themselves and the condition can seriously affect a person's quality of life, particularly if, as is the case for up to 30% of sufferers, it cannot be controlled with drugs.
In these situations, doctors sometimes resort to highly invasive brain surgery to locate and ablate the region of the brain - known as the epileptogenic focus - that is responsible for triggering the patient's fits.
Now, writing in Science Translational Medicine, researchers have developed a harmless brain scanning technique that can find the source of a patient’s fits with much greater accuracy and precision, meaning they can potentially be cured surgically using far more conservative approaches.
It works by using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to home in on hotspots in the brain that contain increased amounts of the chemical glutamate, which signals excited nerve cells.
The team were able to show in a group of epilepsy patients that the scanning technique was highlighting the same parts of the brain as the cause of the patient's seizures as existing, much more invasive, gold standard approaches.
"To a patient it's just like having a normal MRI brain scan," explains study author Kate Davis. "But the hope is that we can now go in, in a much more targeted way, and treat that relatively small area of the brain, remove the epileptic focus, and cure the patient with minimal side effects."