article

New research could lead to better treatment for epilepsy

Thursday, 20 May 2021

Scientists have discovered that the way in which neurons are connected within regions of the brain, can be a better indicator of disease progression and treatment outcomes for people with brain disorders such as epilepsy.

Many brain diseases lead to cell death and the removal of connections within the brain. In a new study, published in Human Brain Mapping, a group of scientists, led by Dr Marcus Kaiser from the School of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, looked at epilepsy patients undergoing surgery.

They found that changes in the local network within brain regions can be a better predictor of disease progression, and also whether surgery will be successful or not.

The team found that looking at connectivity within regions of the brain, showed superior results to the current approach of only observing fibre tract connectivity between brain regions. Dividing the surface of the brain into 50,000 network nodes of comparable size, each brain region could be studied as a local network with 100-500 nodes. These local networks showed distinct changes compared to a control group not suffering from epileptic seizures.

Using a non-invasive technique called diffusion tensor imaging – a special measurement protocol for Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanners – the team of scientists demonstrated that fibres within and between brain regions are removed for patients.

However, they found that connectivity within regions was a better predictor of whether surgical removal of brain tissue was successful in preventing future seizures.

Explaining the work, Dr Kaiser, Professor of Neuroinformatics at the University of Nottingham, says: “When someone has an epileptic seizure, it ‘spreads’ through the brain. We found that local network changes occurred for regions along the main spreading pathways for seizures. Importantly, regions far away from the starting point of the seizure, for example in the opposite brain hemisphere, were involved.

“This indicates that the increased brain activity during seizures leads to changes in a wide range of brain regions. Furthermore, the longer patients suffered, the more regions showed local changes and the more severe were these changes.”

Dr Kaiser, Professor of Neuroinformatics

The researchers at Nottingham, Newcastle, Qingdao, Shanghai, and Munich Universities, along with the company Biomax, evaluated the scans of 33 temporal lobe epilepsy patients and 36 control subjects.

Project partners used the NeuroXM™ knowledge management platform to develop a knowledge model for high-resolution connectivity with more than 50,000 cortical nodes and several millions of connections and corresponding automated processing pipelines accessible through Biomax's neuroimaging product NICARA™.

Project manager Dr Markus Butz-Ostendorf from Biomax: “Our software can be easily employed at hospitals and can also be combined with other kinds of data from genetics or from other imaging approaches such as PET, CT, or EEG.”

Commenting on the fact that local changes were more informative of surgery outcome, Professor Yanjiang Wang, who is one of the corresponding authors, and Ms Xue Chen, both from China University of Petroleum (East China), explained: “Local connectivity was not only better in overall predictions but particularly successful in identifying patients where surgery did not lead to any improvement, identifying 95% of such cases compared to 90% when used connectivity between regions”.

The full study can be found here.

Story credits

More information is available from Dr Marcus Kaiser from the School of Medicine at Marcus.kaiser@nottingham.ac.uk

The full paper - Connectivity within regions characterizes epilepsy duration and treatment outcome. Human Brain Mapping, 1– 15. https://doi.org/10.1002/hbm.25464

By Chen, X., Wang, Y., Kopetzky, S. J., ButzOstendorf, M., & Kaiser, M. (2021).

Charlotte Anscombe - Media Relations Manager - Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Email: charlotte.anscombe@nottingham.ac.uk
Phone: 0115 748 4417
Location:

Our academics can now be interviewed for broadcast via our Media Hub, which offers a Quicklink fixed camera and ISDN line facilities at Jubilee campus. For further information please contact a member of the Press Office on +44 (0)115 951 5798, email  pressoffice@nottingham.ac.uk

For up to the minute media alerts, follow us on Twitter

Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

More news…

Media Relations - External Relations

The University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Room C4)
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5798
email: pressoffice@nottingham.ac.uk