After injury, fewer seizures in ‘chilled’ brain

U. WASHINGTON (US) — Mild cooling of the brain after a head injury prevents the development of epileptic seizures later, a new animal study suggests.

“These findings demonstrate for the first time that prevention of epileptic seizures after traumatic brain injury is possible, and that epilepsy prophylaxis in patients could be achieved more easily than previously thought,” says the lead author of the study, Raimondo D’Ambrosio, associate professor of neurological surgery at the University of Washington. He adds that a clinical trial is required to verify the findings in head injury patients.

Epilepsy can result from genetics or brain damage. Traumatic head injury is the leading cause of acquired epilepsy in young adults. It is often difficult to manage with antiepileptic drugs.

The mechanisms behind the onset of epileptic seizures after brain injury are not known. There is currently no treatment to cure it, prevent it, or even limit its severity.

The researchers used a rodent model of acquired epilepsy in which animals develop chronic spontaneous recurrent seizures—the hallmark of epilepsy—after a contusive head injury similar to that causing epilepsy in humans.

The rats were randomized to either mock-cooling or cooling of the contused brain by no more than 2 Celsius degrees. This degree of cooling, the authors explain, is known to be safe and to decrease mortality of patients with head injury.

The investigators report that cooling by just 2 degrees Celsius for 5 weeks beginning 3 days after injury virtually abolished the later development of epileptic seizure activity. This effect persisted through the end of the study. The treatment induced no additional pathology or inflammation, and restored neuronal activity depressed by the injury.

The researchers, who report their findings in Annals of Neurology, contributed from Universith of Washington, University of Minnesota, and Washington University in St. Louis.

CURE Epilepsy, in partnership with the United States Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, funded the research.

Source: University of Washington