Transcranial electrical stimulation replaces invasive deep-brain stimulation for treating epilepsy

August 12, 2012

Replacing invasive deep brain stimulation surgery (credit: Thomasbg/Wikimedia Commons)

In July, we reported on a micromagnetic stimulation system that is said to be safer than implanted electrodes for deep-brain stimulation to control Parkinson’s disease, other movement disorders, multiple sclerosis, and chronic pain. It uses a form of magnetic stimulation, instead of implanted electrodes, and is not as bulky as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), another alternative.

Now neuroscientists at Rutgers University, NYU, and University of Szeged (Hungary) have developed another approach for controlling epileptic seizures more safely and compactly: a closed-loop (feedback) system using transcranial electrical stimulation (TES).

Like the micromagnetic stimulation system the TES system is not as invasive, but uses electrical signals instead of magnetic, so no coils are required.

With the TES system, stimulation is only applied when abnormal brainwave patterns emerge, and instead of being implanted deeply, using invasive surgery, the electrodes are placed within the skull. They could also be placed non-invasively outside the skull, the researchers say.

The researchers tested the system using rodents with petit mal epilepsy and found that the stimulation resulted in a more than 60% decrease in the duration of episodes and the fraction of time spent in episodes, compared to deep-brain stimulation.

Closed-loop system detects neural patterns of seizure, which trigger transcranial electrical stimulation, applied to the specific locations in the skull (credit: Antal Berényi et al./Science)