Scientific event

Epilepsy Day 2019: electrical stimulation, genetics and new experiments

As part of its research program, NeuroSchool organized the annual “ Clinical Day ” to highlight the clinic in Neuroscience research. The theme chosen for this year is epilepsy. Indeed, Marseille is an important research center of this field, ranging from basic science to clinical in children and adults. This event is, therefore, an opportunity to exchange with French and international experts on some recent discoveries in this area.

The first speaker of the day is Jean-Bernard Manent, a researcher at the Institute of Neurobiology of the Mediterranean ( INMED ) within the “Molecular bases and physiopathology of malformations of the cerebral cortex” team led by Dr. Alfonso Represa. This research team works on cortical development and specifically studies cortical malformations.

Dr. Manent is particularly interested in sub-cortical band heterotopia. Lastly, this complex name hides a disease that is finally easy to understand: neurons that initially migrated to a specific region of the brain remain in their birthplace. It induces a cortical malformation called “band”, because of its shape. This malformation has the effect of disrupting the electrical balance of the brain and thus causing epileptic seizures, with convulsions. Previous research has shown that this pathology is caused by a mutation on a protein called DoubleCortin ( DCX ). Dr. Manent’s presentation focus on the theme “animal models of heterotopias”. He introduces a genetically modified rat model that can be used to study the occurrence of epileptic seizures during development.

Focus: Is double cortex responsible for epilepsy?
However, according to Dr. Manent, ” the malformation is not always the source of epilepsy but participates in its genesis “. Dr. Manent’s unpublished work seeks to understand how epilepsy emerges and evolves over time. The researchers realized that there were likely more complex mechanisms of epilepsy genesis than initially described. Further research is needed to characterize them. These works are important because they allow the understanding of the evolution of the pathology, thanks to which the researchers hope to cure these disorders.

The second speaker, Brigitte Piallat, is a researcher at the Grenoble Institute of Neuroscience, in the “brain stimulation and neuroscience systems.” team. Directed by Olivier David, this team focuses its research on the characterization of brain structures involved in neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, which is in the spotlight of the day.

Her talk, titled “Neurostimulation in epilepsy: from animal models to human therapeutic applications” is centered on a new therapeutic strategy that could be deployed: neurostimulation, or electrical stimulation of neurons.

Brigitte Piallat thus presents this innovative technique, via results obtained during experiments on animal model and in human clinic. Several brain areas may be subject to this electrical stimulation, defined as “relevant therapeutic targets”.

Thus, the neurostimulation of subthalamic nuclei in monkeys has reduced the number of epileptic seizures. Similarly, in humans, thalamus stimulation in a study involving 110 epileptics patients resulted in a decrease in seizure frequency, a “very encouraging” result.

What you must remember

–  Epilepsy is a complex neurological disorder
–  The development of new and more relevant animal models improves understanding

of the disease in humans
–  Stimulation of key brain areas could be used as therapy in resistant to drug

treatments people
–  The results presented during these conferences create new opportunities, and

emphasize the need for further studies

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