Using state-of-the-art, 7 Tesla magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology, University of Minnesota Medical School researchers may have uncovered a better approach to diagnosing epilepsy.
In the process, the team was able to cure eight patients of all epileptic symptoms.
Epilepsy, a neurological disorder causing repeated seizures or convulsions, impacts about one percent of the population, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The most common type of epilepsy is temporal lobe epilepsy, caused by scarring inside the hippocampus, a major memory center of the brain. Many of these patients have severe memory problems, even in between seizures.
Using 7 Tesla MRI technology, a U of M research team led by University of Minnesota Physician neurologist Dr. Thomas Henry, scanned epileptic patients to capture extremely detailed images of their brain. (The strength of a magnetic field is measured in Tesla units. The higher the field strength, the more detailed the image acquired by MRI machines.)
While most standard clinical MRI machines have strength of 1.5 or 3 Tesla, the improved 7 Tesla technology allowed researchers to make highly-improved, detailed images of patients' brain tissue, especially the portion responsible for causing epilepsy.
The clearer MRI images allowed Henry and his colleagues to more accurately find scar tissue associated with temporal lobe epilepsy. Accurately locating this scarring is critical because if medications fail to control epileptic seizures, it's often possible for highly-trained neurosurgeons to remove scars from the brain in order to stop the seizures. The healthy parts of the brain left untouched, and actually begin to function better after seizures stop.