Moving, electrically ‘silent’ source initiates brain waves

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Brain waves that spread through the hippocampus are initiated by a method not seen before — a possible step toward understanding and treating epilepsy, according to researchers at Case Western Reserve University.

The researchers discovered a traveling spike generator that appears to move across the hippocampus — a part of the brain mainly associated with memory — and change direction, while generating brain waves. The generator itself, however, produces no electrical signal.

“In epilepsy, we’ve thought the focus of seizures is fixed and, in severe cases, that part of the brain is surgically removed,” said Dominique Durand, Elmer Lincoln Lindseth Professor in Biomedical Engineering at Case School of Engineering and leader of the study. “But if the focus, or source, of seizures moves — as we’ve described — that’s problematic.”

The speed of the waves most closely match those found in epilepsy and in healthy sleep and theta waves, which are thought to help form memories.

On this latest study, Durand worked with PhD students Mingming Zhang, Rajat S. Shivacharan, postdoctoral researcher Chia-Chu Chiang, and research associate Luis E. Gonzales-Reyes.

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