Commentary: physical approaches for the treatment of epilepsy: electrical and magnetic stimulation and cooling

Neurotherapeutics. 2009 Apr;6(2):258-62. doi: 10.1016/j.nurt.2009.01.014.


Physical approaches for the treatment of epilepsy currently under study or development include electrical or magnetic brain stimulators and cooling devices, each of which may be implanted or applied externally. Some devices may stimulate peripheral structures, whereas others may be implanted directly into the brain. Stimulation may be delivered chronically, intermittently, or in response to either manual activation or computer-based detection of events of interest. Physical approaches may therefore ultimately be appropriate for seizure prophylaxis by causing a modification of the underlying substrate, presumably with a reduction in the intrinsic excitability of cerebral structures, or for seizure termination, by interfering with the spontaneous discharge of pathological neuronal networks. Clinical trials of device-based therapies are difficult due to ethical issues surrounding device implantation, problems with blinding, potential carryover effects that may occur in crossover designs if substrate modification occurs, and subject heterogeneity. Unresolved issues in the development of physical treatments include optimization of stimulation parameters, identification of the optimal volume of brain to be stimulated, development of adequate power supplies to stimulate the necessary areas, and a determination that stimulation itself does not promote epileptogenesis or adverse long-term effects on normal brain function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Electric Stimulation Therapy* / methods
  • Epilepsy / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Hypothermia, Induced* / methods
  • Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation* / methods