AUSTIN, Texas - Researchers at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin are embarking on a study to protect the brains of young epilepsy patients who require surgery.
The study will be using gaming technology to help do this.
"So when the surgeon goes in - no matter how accurately they surgically treat – there is a risk of causing collateral damage," says Dr. David Paydarfar. "And this collateral damage, while it can cure the epilespy or significanly improve the epilepsy – there’s damage afterward where the hand doesn’t move as well, or there’s a loss of some memory, language, perceptions, etc."
Paydarfar, a professor of neurology at Dell Medical School, is heading up a three-year student on preventing that "collateral damage" in patients who have "intractable epilepsy" where seizures don't respond to medication and surgery on the "epileptic center" of the brain is the only option.
They plan to do that by using multi-modal gaming technology, incorporating movement via treadmills, to influence nueroplasticity, essentially rewiring the brain.
"It’s sort of the opposite of recovery after a stroke," Paydarfar said. "We’re doing it before the surgery so it’s preventative."
Patients will be referred to the Epilepsy Center at Dell Children’s. UT Austin scientists will then work with the clinicians where standard care and evaluations will continue and the team will learn where the epileptic circuit is. Prior to surgery, patients will undergo a month or two of intense training with gaming tailored to each patient.
"We would watch using imaging and electrical recordings. We would see where the circuits are firing, when they’re doing the gaming, and see if we can move - even by a milimeter - away from the epileptic site," says Paydarfar.
A team of engineers, neuroscientists, neurologists, and doctors who specialize in epilepsy are getting ready for the study. By early 2022, they hope to begin training patients with the first surgeries happening in the spring.