Some 300 000 Canadians have been diagnosed with epilepsy, a very serious neurological disorder that causes seizures when the brain’s electrical rhythms become imbalanced.
Of these patients, 30% don’t respond well to medication.
Of these patients, 30% don’t respond well to medication or are resistant to treatment. For them, surgery is their only hope to regain a sense of normalcy. Nevertheless, half of those who undergo surgery continue to experience seizures. For neurologists, the challenge is then to identify and neutralize their seizure sites.
People with epilepsy who are candidates for surgery must spend up to two weeks in hospital so specialists can record their seizures and pinpoint their origin based on the results of electroencephalograms (EEGs), which rely on electrodes to measure brain wave patterns. However, the method is not effective in all patients. In some, EEG electrodes must be implanted in their brains in an invasive surgical intervention that can lead to complications.
The team led by Dr. Birgit Frauscher, researcher at The Neuro, a McGill University research and training institute, is currently working to develop seizure-independent brain activity biomarkers. Combined with artificial intelligence, they accurately identify epileptic focuses. For example, certain characteristics of seizures such as high-frequency oscillations may be used as biomarkers. A patient can then undergo a ten-minute EEG during deep sleep instead of being monitored for a week or two. The experts are also looking to new high-resolution EEGs with 256 electrodes that provide information on epileptic focuses and spare patients the invasive surgery. Dr. Frauscher hopes the research they’re conducting will boost the surgical success rate.