Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Mixed Signals
09 March 2013

Mixed Signals

Epileptic fits result from a surge of abnormal electrical activity in the brain, sending a tidal wave of confused signals to the muscles. The resulting convulsions can be life-threatening and if they cannot be controlled by drugs, brain surgery may be considered. Pictured is the exposed surface of an epileptic’s brain. A flexible electrode grid will be attached so that electrical activity can be analysed over several days and areas of the brain selected for removal in a second operation. The patient made a full recovery and no longer suffers from epileptic fits. This type of surgery may become less common in the future as research continues – for example, one recent study has identified a type of receptor in brain cells that becomes more active with persistent fits, suggesting that new drugs could be developed to suppress these receptors and perhaps control the epilepsy.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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