Epilepsy affects an estimated 1.2 million adults in the U.S. alone, an upwards of three and a half million globally. In many cases, treatment for epileptic seizures includes medications to help reduce the occurrence of seizures. However, not all people with epilepsy respond to this treatment. For patients who are non-responsive to treatment, one of the only options available includes a surgical procedure to remove the part of the brain trigger epileptic seizures, called the epileptogenic zone of the brain. However, just over half of all patients who undergo this procedure have a successful one, highlighting a need for improvements .
A team of researchers affiliated with the Human Brain Project, with support from research group EBRAINS, have spent years designing a new approach to model the brain and improve outcomes for surgical epileptic treatment. The new models, which are currently being studied in the EPINOV clinical trial (Improving Epilepsy surgery management and progNOsis using Virtual brain technology), is also published in a recent article in Science Translational Medicine.
The models are created using a tool called The Virtual Brain. Taking specific information from each individual, using personal brain data, researchers can develop a personalized model unique for each person. Essentially, researchers are able to develop a “virtual” patient, allowing them greater insight into a person’s seizures and brain dynamics before surgery even begins.
The models can show researchers the “trajectory” of an epilepsy in the brain; more specifically, the models allow researchers to follow an epilepsy in the brain, identifying the precise regions of the brain implicated in a seizure. Better insight into what parts of the brain are involved in a seizure could lead to a more effective surgical treatment.
The personalized brain models have been studied in the past in several retrospective studies. The EPINOV trial, which is expected to last until about 2025, is one of the first clinical trials studying the efficacy of The Virtual Brain as a supportive tool for brain surgery.
Sources: Eurekalert!; Science Translational Medicine; Healthline