Health Discoveries in Epilepsy

Rays of light may silence brain neurons that cause seizures

January 27, 2010
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology believe rays of light may be able to "silence" out-of-control brain neurons that cause seizures.

Likening the use of light to electric jolts used to shut off neuron firing during seizures, the MIT team has found a class of proteins that can be inserted into neurons to activate a yellow-green light. This causes neuron activity to cease almost instantaneously. The process is also "easily reversible," according to the team led by neuroengineer Edward Boyden.

The brain silencing may help in treatment of brain disorders such as epilepsy while allowing researchers to learn how neurons cause normal brain circuits to misfire The MIT findings are published in the January issue of Nature.

"We hope to enable a broad platform of molecular tools for controlling brain activity, thus enabling new general therapeutic tools, and new ways of studying brain function," said Boyden, an associate member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

A clinical study under way through the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, the research arm of the North Shore-LIJ Health System, is examining whether varying forms of epilepsy are inherited. People living with epilepsy and their families are participating in the study.ADNFCR-2730-ID-19582568-ADNFCR
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