03-007, 03-006, 00-021: Adaptive Electric Field Control of Epileptic Seizures

Scientists at George Mason University have developed an alternative method of intervention for epilepsy based on their basic neuroscience research on ensembles or large networks of nerve cells.

Under the leadership of renowned pediatric neurosurgeon Steven Schiff, they have developed a feedback technology analogous to a cardiac pacemaker, which when implanted, would deliver extremely minute electrical shocks to affected brain tissue at the seizure locus. Much as a metronome or conductor can reset the tempo of an orchestra, so this technology allows brain cells to re-set their own tempo and resume normal neuronal behavior.

Market Significance:

About 2 Million Americans suffer from epilepsy, a neurologic disease characterized by seizures or "brain storms" that can produce symptoms ranging from minor blackouts to catastrophic tonic discharges. Current accepted treatments for the disease are either pharmacological or neurosurgical. The drugs currently available are often characterized by their unpleasant side-effects and low safety ratios and consequently result in problems with maintaining therapeutic levels or patient compliance. Also, in a significant number of cases (20-30%), drug therapy is ineffective, and therefore neurosurgical intervention must be sought after. Current neurosurgical intervention to ameliorate the symptoms of epilepsy involves resection (or mutilation) of brain tissue thought to be at the focus (or center) of the seizure locus. Obviously such therapy results in some loss of neurological function. Moreover, neurosurgical resection has a high degree of risk associated with it.

The adaptive electric field method of controlling epileptic seizures promises to set a significant new standard in the successful treatment of those who suffer from epilepsy.