Pediatric neurologist Steven
Rothman, M.D., is searching for a better way to stop
difficult-to-control focal seizures.
Focal (or partial) epilepsy, which may account for up to 40 percent
of seizures in children, is caused by “abnormally excitable” brain
tissue in one specific area of the brain, says Rothman.
It can be difficult to control with medication, Rothman says. In
that case, the best treatment can be surgical removal of the part of
brain that’s causing the seizures—but that can cause permanent
“We’re trying to develop techniques to temporarily calm the
excessively excitable portion of brain without requiring us to remove
it,” says Rothman, who directs the Division
of Pediatric Clinical Neuroscience in the University of Minnesota
Medical School’s Department
With support from the nonprofit Citizens
United for Research in Epilepsy’s (CURE) 2009 Madison Friends of
CURE Award, Rothman and collaborator Daniel Rode, Ph.D., at Washington
University in St. Louis, Missouri, will continue their studies on
whether light can stop seizures without affecting other brain
Their idea involves putting tiny light sources — smaller than a
pencil eraser — on the surface of the brain. Then a “caged compound,”
which releases GABA — the natural inhibitory transmitter in the brain
that shuts down abnormal activity of nerve cells — would be
administered into the fluid space surrounding the brain’s surface. At
the start of a seizure, the light would turn on and trigger the instant
release of GABA, calming the nerve cells and stopping the seizure.
This technique already has worked in cultures of brain cells,
Rothman says, and a new article published in this month’s issue of the
shows it works in slices of brain. The CURE grant funding supports
studies to try to extend this technique to intact brains using a rat
model of focal epilepsy.
“If we can perfect these optical techniques, children and adults with intractable focal epilepsy could ultimately benefit from the speed and the spatial selectivity of light,” says Rothman. “It would be virtually instantaneous.”
Children at UMACH receive gift of books
Many thanks to Borders bookstores and everyone who purchased books over the holidays for children at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital! Because of your generosity, about 15,000 books and plush bears were collected at seven metro area Borders locations for ill children and their families!