Pinpointing Problems in the Brain
Reported March 2007
ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Dawn Helton has tried just about everything available to stop her seizures so she can get back to living her life. "I mostly, um, just lose my hearing and my speech ... confusion. Then, of course, I'm really tired and stuff," she says.
Epilepsy is a frustrating and often debilitating condition. Medication may control seizures in about 75 percent of cases, but neurologists say surgery is the only potential cure.
A Geodesic Sensor Net was supposed to help doctors pinpoint where Helton's seizures happen, but it didn't work. Now there's new hope when all else fails. A powerful new brain scanning tool could make all the difference. Magnetoencephalography, or MEG, works by measuring the magnetic field created by brain activity ... And it does that in real time.
"Unlike other, other imaging tools that sample it several or tens or hundreds times, this imaging technology can take thousands of samples every second," Anto Bagic, M.D., a neurologist at the Center for Advanced Brain Magnetic Source Imaging (CABMSI) at UPMC in Pittsburgh, tells Ivanhoe.
That means in some cases MEG can pinpoint the source of an epileptic seizure much more accurately than the traditional method of electroencephalography (EEG). Using a combination of MEG and MRI, neurosurgeons have a detailed brain map guiding them during surgery to remove just the damaged tissue, while preserving healthy cells.
Researchers say in the future, the MEG brain scanner may aid in the diagnosis and study of other disorders like dementia, migraines, Parkinson's disease, depression and traumatic brain injuries, in addition to epilepsy -- a breakthrough that could lead to helping patients like Helton.
"I think it's fabulous," Helton says. "I think if anybody can come up with even anything more, more advanced, it's even greater! Stop these seizures. Or slow 'em down, or something."
The American Association of Physicists in Medicine contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
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Pinpointing Problems in the Brain
A powerful new brain scanning device gives new hope for patients with dementia, epilepsy, migraines, Parkinson's disease, depression and traumatic brain injuries.