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Scientists find brain's 'grasping' centre

26 February, 2001

Researchers have pinpointed the part of the brain that tells the arm to reach out and grab whatever the person desires, while investigating a patient with epilepsy.

A letter by Dr. Philippe Kahane from the Universite Joseph Fourier in Grenoble to the February issue of the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry follows the case of a 30 year old woman with epilepsy. In order to locate the part of her brain at which seizures start, they placed electrodes into her brain. They found that electrical stimulation in the area known as the anterior cingulate sulcus "incited the patient to act".

When that part of the brain was stimulated the woman had "an irresistible urge grasp something" and her eyes started to something to wander to look for something to hold onto. However, if stimulation occurred when her eyes were closed, her arm moved around in an aimless manner. Researchers concluded that the effect of stimulation of this part of the brain was related to whether visual guidance was available or not.

Dr Kahane claimed that in those patients whose seizures begin with an urge to move or involve involuntary movements such as grasping, this information may have a bearing of future techniques in epilepsy surgery, adding that a deeper knowledge of what governs human movement in general may help doctors better understand epilepsy.