Cooling May Prevent Trauma-Induced Epilepsy

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A study suggests that epileptic seizures, often the result of severe head trauma, can be prevented by cooling the brain after injury. Warmer brain cells are more likely to experience electrical activity and are thus more susceptible to the abnormal electrical discharges that cause seizures after injury. Doctors now perform cooling for the brains of infants suffering inadequate blood flow during birth and heart attack patients who may experience peripheral brain damage.

In a recent study, researchers fitted rats with headsets intended originally to stop seizures but that were repurposed to test the effectiveness of brain cooling on preventing seizures from occurring. Rats with brain-cooling headsets suffered a few brief seizures up to four months after brain injury. Rats who didn't receive these headsets suffered seizures that increased in duration and severity in the weeks after the injury.

The results of this study imply that injury-related seizures can be treated without drugs and that cooling the brain following severe head trauma can reduce the severity of established epileptic seizures or the risk of developing injury-related epilepsy. Researchers have started using cooling devices on humans during operations. They also plan to implant focal brain cooling devices in humans suffering from seizures.

D'Ambrosio R, Eastman C, et al. Mild passive focal cooling prevents epileptic seizures after head injury in rats. Annals of Neurology. (December 2012).