New imaging techniques detect hidden scars in the brain
During the development of the fetal brain, new neurons originate that migrate to different parts of the brain to form the cerebral cortex, but from time to time the process goes awry. Sometimes small failures in the constructional system of the cortex cause serious problems, such as the uncontrolled electrical storms in the brain that underlie seizures.
Now, according to a Technology Review article on June 9, 2006, new high-resolution brain imaging technologies could help doctors find these hidden flaws, allowing surgeons to remove the damaged area and help patients Scientists understand the causes of epilepsy.
Epilepsy is characterized by recurrent seizures, caused by uncontrolled waves of electrical activity that travel throughout the brain. About two-thirds of patients with epilepsy can control the disease with drugs. The remaining third can sometimes undergo surgery to remove the tiny piece of brain tissue that causes the seizures, provided surgeons are able to locate the point in question with a brain scan.
Scientists estimate that around 25% of these patients have small abnormalities (probably produced during cortical development) that are too subtle to detect with conventional brain imaging devices, but that they could be perceived with new technologies developed by researchers at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston. In a study released last fall, Ellen Grant, chief of pediatric neuroradiology at MGH, and her colleagues were able to detect lesions in two-thirds of epileptic patients whose previous brain scans had been normal. Now the team is developing even higher resolution devices, which they will use to study some learning disabilities and other developmental disorders such as autism.
Source: Technology Review