Innovative Study Looks at How the Brain Communicates with Itself

Ashesh Mehta, MD

In today’s world, networks operate in diverse situations, from communication networks that permit a cell phone conversation to social networks that link friends on Facebook. These networks have properties (e.g., each computer in your home with a wireless network) and hubs, where multiple separate sub-networks come together (e.g., a person who bridges multiple social networks). 

It is increasingly being recognized that these properties operate in our brain too – in both normal functioning and as a mechanism for disorders of the nervous system, like the spread of seizures across the brain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a non-invasive method that can be used to measure the tiny metabolic changes that take place in an active part of the brain. To date, fMRI has been typically used to study what parts of the brain become active when subjects respond to stimuli (e.g., being shown pictures) or perform tasks (e.g., rotating objects in their mind’s eye). Recently, there has been interest in looking at how the brain works at rest, by measuring the fMRI signals in different brain regions and seeing how they activate and deactivate together. By measuring the relationship of activity between different brain areas, it is possible to describe an individual’s brain network, including sub-networks where brain areas with higher correlation are more closely connected (much like friends in a social network). While this has been studied extensively with fMRI, results have been difficult to interpret, because of the unclear relationship between fMRI signals and brain electrical activity. 
 
Validation of this fMRI methodology has recently taken a major step forward, with the findings published in a recent issue of Full Post - to Detail View

Breastfeeding Linked to Fewer Seizures in Kids

Cynthia Harden, MD

A recent article from Medline Plus commented on a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics, where researchers from the School of Public Health at the University of Aarhus in Denmark found that those babies who were breastfed may have fewer seizures after they’re a year old. Moreover, the longer they were breastfed, the better. This finding that breast feeding reduces the risk of onset of early childhood epilepsy is intriguing.

In the study, kids who had breastfed for at least three months had about a one in 135 chance of developing epilepsy after they were a year old. If they were breastfed for at least six months , this chance dropped to about one in 150. Babies on breast milk for at least nine months had about a one in 200 chance of getting the seizure disorder later.

However, the data from the study is somewhat limited in that almost every infant in the study was breastfed for at least one month and only 2 percent of the sample was not breast-fed at all. Given that about 25 percent of US mothers do not breastfeed their infants, a bigger sample size of those in the study who were not breastfed would have been informative. However, for researchers in epilepsy such as myself, the data from the study is remarkable and very thought-provoking.

For more information about epilepsy, diagnosis and treatment, please go here

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