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An international team led by Czech scientists has demonstrated that one of the basic natural principles is also involved in emergence of epileptic seizures. Revealing the existence of the so-called critical deceleration principle in the epileptic brain assumes that the seizure is preceded by a gradual loss of stability and resistance of the brain, which becomes more prone to the onset of seizures. The results obtained provide important insights into understanding the mechanisms of seizure formation, opens up space to explain the impact of many other epileptic events, and unify the current - often contradictory - theory of seizure. The results of the research bring new possibilities to explain the causes of loss of brain stability, to develop seizure risk prediction techniques, to adjust treatment depending on the rate of seizure risk, or to increase the effectiveness of healing brain stimulation. Researchers at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering, the Institute of Physiology at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, in cooperation with colleagues from the Institute of Computer Science of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, the Second Faculty of Medicine of the Charles University and colleagues from foreign universities in Melbourne, Oxford and Birmingham have demonstrated on experimental models and real-world patients that detectable changes in brain activity can precede an epileptic seizure.

Epilepsy is a disease characterized by a persistent tendency of the brain to generate spontaneous epileptic seizures.There are about 80,000 people with active epilepsy in the Czech Republic. At least 160,000 more people are still being or have been treated with epilepsy during their life, but they did not suffer from seizures for five years or more. Although epilepsy research has been going on for several decades, the cause of the seizure is unknown. From the point of view of the patient, epileptic seizures occur seemingly suddenly and randomly. These two properties are particularly uncomfortable for patients and their loved ones. An inability to reliably determine when the next seizure occurs is a primary reason why patients need to avoid various risky activities. Fear of unexpected seizures is one of the main causes that reduce the quality of life of people with epilepsy.

These changes have the character of so-called critical deceleration, one of the basic natural principles of the transition between dynamic states, which reflects the gradual loss of stability and resilience of the studied system. In the past, critical deceleration and loss of resilience have been shown to precede climate change, animal extinction, stock market collapse, or cardiac arrhythmia or depression. Research by Czech scientists shows that the transition into seizure is accompanied by gradual loss of resistance of an epileptic brain through a critical slowdown.

The article on the new discovery was published in Nature Neuroscience and is available on-line.