New hope for drug-resistant epilepsy

In a joint project between the Decision Neuroscience Lab at ETH Zurich and the Swiss Epilepsy Center at Klinik Lengg, Ph.D. candidate Giovanna Aiello discovered how deep brain stimulation treatment for drug-resistant epilepsy patients could be improved.

Epilepsy is relentless, especially when the response to seizure medications falls short. Deep brain stimulation of a specific brain region called the Anterior Nucleus of the Thalamus (ANT) has long been proposed as a potential solution. Deep brain stimulation involves implanting electrodes, within specific brain areas, such as the ANT. These electrodes emit electrical impulses, regulating abnormal brain activity and influencing specific cells and large-scale brain networks.

However, the precise mechanisms behind the effectiveness of deep brain stimulation for drug-resistant epilepsy have remained unknown. Giovanna Aiello studied ANT-interactions and the mechanisms underlying the ANT’s deep brain stimulation in 15 patients.
Their study provides a characterization of the interaction dynamic between the ANT and the cortex, delivering crucial information to optimize and predict clinical deep brain stimulation response in patients with drug-resistant epilepsy – raising hope for novel, innovative treatment approaches in the future.

Giovanna Aiello, Lukas Imbach et al. Functional network dynamics between the anterior thalamus and the cortex in deep brain stimulation for epilepsy. Brain. 2023 Jun 21 Online ahead of print


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Image: X-ray after implantation of electrodes in the Anterior Nucleus of the Thalamus, ©Swiss Epilepsy Center