Although epilepsy can result from genetics, traumatic head injury is the leading cause of acquired epilepsy in young adults and is often difficult to manage. According to Futurity, while brain cooling has been known for its neuroprotective abilities, a new animal study found that mild passive focal cooling of the perilesional neocortex can prevent chronic, spontaneous and recurrent seizures that often result from brain injury.
Researchers used a rodent model of acquired epilepsy in which animals develop symptoms that are characteristic of the brain disorder after a head injury that would similarly cause epilepsy in humans. The rodents, which developed recurrent seizures, were randomized to either a mock-cooling or cooling of the contused brain by no more than two degrees Celsius, which is the temperature known to decrease mortality of patients with head injuries.
Three days after injury, the researchers began the cooling for five weeks and assessed epileptic seizures using a 5-electrode video-electrocorticography. Results showed that the cooling virtually abolished the later development of epileptic seizure activity. Furthermore, the cooling treatment did not induce additional pathology or inflammation, and it restored neuronal activity depressed by the injury.
However, this study isn’t the first to test how brain cooling can change the severity and occurrence of epileptic seizures. Japanese researchers recently reported that a focal brain titanium cooling plate suppressed seizures in animals without adverse affects. Researchers aim for a future where epileptic patients are implanted with a similar device that would detect seizure activity and immediately cool the affected area, but further research is needed.
Although a clinical trial is still required to verify the findings in head injury patients, the focal cooling study is a step in the right direction for epileptic patients. There is currently no treatment to cure, prevent or limit the severity of the disorder.
Raimondo D’Ambrosio, the lead author of the study and associate professor of neurological surgery at the University of Washington, notes the promise of the study: “These findings demonstrate for the first time that prevention of epileptic seizures after traumatic brain injury is possible, and that epilepsy prophylaxis in patients could be achieved more easily than previously thought.”