Brain study uncovers vital clue in bid to beat epilepsy

September 3, 2013

People with epilepsy could be helped by new research into the way a key molecule controls brain activity during a seizure.

Researchers have identified the role played by of a protein – called BDNF – and say the discovery could lead to new drugs that calm the symptoms of epileptic seizures.

Scientists analysed the way cells communicate when the brain is most active – such as in – when electrical signalling by the brain's neurons is increased.

They found that the BDNF molecule – which is known to be released in the brain during seizures – blocks a specific process known as activity-dependent bulk endocytosis (ABDE).

By blocking this process during an epileptic seizure, BDNF increases the release of neurotransmitters and causes heightened electrical activity in the brain.

Since ADBE is only triggered during high , drugs designed to target this process could have fewer side effects for normal day to day brain function, researchers say.

Experts say that not all respond to current drug treatments and the finding could lead to the development of .

The team, however, offered a word of caution. Since ABDE is also implicated in a range of brain functions, such as creating , more research is needed to establish what the effects of manipulating this molecule might be on these key processes.

The study, led by the University of Edinburgh, is published in the journal Nature Communications. The research was funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council.

Dr Mike Cousin, of the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Integrative Physiology, who led the research, said: "Around one third of people with epilepsy do not respond to the treatments we currently have available. By studying the way behave during seizures, we have been able to uncover an exciting new research avenue for research into anti-epileptic therapies."

Researchers will now focus on identifying specific genes that control this brain process to determine whether they hold the key to new drug treatments.

Explore further: Surprising results from study of non-epileptic seizures

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Special nerve cells cause goose bumps and nipple erection

August 29, 2016

The sympathetic nerve system has long been thought to respond the same regardless of the physical or emotional stimulus triggering it. However, in a new study from Karolinska Institutet published in the Nature Neuroscience, ...

A new window to understanding the brain

August 29, 2016

Scientists in recent years have made great strides in the quest to understand the brain by using implanted probes to explore how specific neural circuits work.

Next steps in understanding brain function

August 26, 2016

The most complex piece of matter in the known universe is the brain. Neuroscientists have recently taken on the challenge to understand brain function from its intricate anatomy and structure. There is no sure way to go about ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.