Engineers from UC Berkley have created a mathematical model of the brain as it undergoes an epileptic seizure, and matched it with recordings taken from electrodes implanted into the brain of a person with epilepsy.
Epilepsy is often described as a ‘storm’ of electrical signals, suggesting lots of random and chaotic brain activity, but in fact, quite the opposite occurs – groups of neurons suddenly become inappropriately synchonised.
This can be seen from the image on the right – a graph of brain recordings taken from a person having a seizure. These were recorded from electrodes safely implanted into the brain by the UC Berkley team.
Instead of supporting their normal functions these neurons work in time with nearby neurons, that usually have a completely different role in the brain.
This can lead to loss of consciousness and limb shaking commonly associated with epilepsy. The rhythm of the muscle jerks are often dictated by the rhythm of the synchronised neurons.
Sometimes people just have absences, where they can lose consciousness for a few seconds with no other noticable effects. The person who has the seizure may not even know this is happening.
With some types of seizure, people may remain conscious, but have unusual sensations, feelings of deja vu, or perhaps just peculiar thoughts and mental images.
The effects of epilepsy vary greatly with the parts of the brain involved and from person to person.
The newly created mathematical model will allow researchers to create computer simulations of epilepsy, allowing theories to be tested out and ‘virtual experiments’ to take place.
Learn how to deal with epileptic seizures.