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Theta brainwaves help to reduce seizure frequency

21 June, 2006

The brain's
septum (a thin membrane within the brain) helps prevent seizures by
inducing rhythmical electrical activity in the circuits of the
hippocampus, according to a new study in the Journal of Neurophysiology.

The
researchers found that, by imposing a normal "theta" rhythm on rats
with severe epilepsy, they could reduce seizures by up to 97 per cent.
Theta rhythms are one of several electroencephalogram (EEG) waveforms
associated with various sleep and awake states.

Lead researcher Luis Colom, of the University of Texas at Brownsville, commented:

"The
septum acts as the conductor, orchestrating brain impulses as they pass
from the brain stem through the septum and on to the hippocampus.
Normally, the hippocampus oscillates between three and 12 times each
second, a frequency that is called the theta rhythm. Oscillations at
theta frequency are important in processing and storing relevant
sensory information and appears important to certain memory processes.

"My
hypothesis is that the septum keeps the electrical activity of neurons
within certain areas of the brain working within normal ranges. By
keeping the neurons firing normally, the septum inhibits neuronal
hyperexcitability, such as epilepsy, and hypoexcitablity, such as
Alzheimer's disease."

Dr Colom and his fellow
researchers are now looking at two different approaches to stopping
seizures. One group is taking the approach of making the neurons less
excitable and the other group is looking for a new treatment that will
focus on inducing theta.