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FINDINGS OFFER NEW WAYS TO TREAT EPILEPSY

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A researcher said Wednesday his findings on chaos control may have potential applications for epilepsy, including alternatives to brain surgery for controlling seizures.

"We believe these findings may some day be applied in human cases as an option to radical neurosurgery as a method to suppress epileptic seizures," said Dr. Steven Schiff, a neurosurgeon at Children's National Medical Center and assistant professor at the George Washington University.Usually considered an unpredictable series of events, chaos in the latest theories has been proposed as a method of detecting short periods of stability or patterns of behavior.

Schiff, Mark Spano of the Naval Surface Warfare Center and Dr. William Ditto of the Georgia Institute of Technology applied that theory to laboratory experiments with hippocampal brain slice preparations resembling an epileptic brain.

"By mapping events in a chaotic system and graphically illustrating patterns of stability within chaos, we were able to take the work one step further and develop methods to control the seemingly random system - forcing it into stable or unstable patterns of behavior," Schiff said.

He called the applications of chaos control to epileptic patients "intriguing," noting the current treatment involves drugs to suppress seizures and, for those who do not respond, surgery to remove the brain section where seizures are triggered.

"While surgery for some patients is the only answer, loss of function associated with the portion of the brain that is removed and the trauma of neurosurgery can complicate the decision to proceed," he said.

Schiff and some other neurosurgeons now implant electrodes in the patient's brain to determine the location of the epileptic focus and uncover "bursts" of activity, called interictal spikes, as well as the seizures themselves.

"Often such spikes emanate from the same region of the brain from which the seizures are generated, but the relationship between the spike patterns and seizure onsets remains unclear," Schiff said.

Initial findings point to the interval of time between bursts as a possible key to the control of seizures in a laboratory setting.