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A “brain pacemaker” has been shown to control epilepsy in rats by responding to abnormal electrical patterns in the brain as they happen. The device, reported in today’s issue of Science, is less invasive than some other seizure-zapping technologies in development—it does not need to be implanted into the brain tissue. Instead, it sits on the brain’s surface. And because the device is only activated in response to seizures, it does not share the risk of causing brain-changing side effects carried by continuously stimulating devices.

Some 30 to 40 percent of epilepsy patients do not respond to medication; these kinds of self-regulating devices could provide these patients with a way to control their seizures as they happen.

As reported by HealthDay:

It works like a ping-pong game,” explained study author Dr. Gyorgy Buzsaki, a professor of neural science at New York University. “Every time a ball is coming your way, you apply an interfering pattern to whack it away.”

Technology Review reported on a version of this kind of treatment in 2007 that requires deeper implantation into the brain (see “Zapping Seizures Away”). The company behind that technology, Neuropace, recently announced that it is seeking FDA approval for the treatment, which they’ve already tested in 191 epilepsy patients.

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Tagged: Biomedicine

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