Expanding therapeutic options: Devices and the treatment of refractory epilepsy

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Alternative treatments to anticonvulsants and resective surgery are needed for patients with refractory epilepsy. The renewed interest in brain stimulation and device therapy is exciting and is based on expanding human and animal research. Many important questions remain, such as where and how the stimuli should be applied. If we assume that neural networks are responsible for seizure generation and propagation, it seems reasonable to assume that seizures can be affected by electrical stimulation of more than one brain region. As research continues, we may discover that stimulation of a particular brain region is more effective for a specific type of epilepsy. In addition to finding the ideal site for treatment, the optimum stimulation parameters must be defined. We may find that different brain regions require different stimulation parameters. Presently, the Vagus Nerve Stimulator is the only alternative treatment to anticonvulsive drugs or surgery that is currently available. However, as technology advances and our understanding of epilepsy grows, we are likely to see increasingly sophisticated devices. Some of these devices may have the capacity to accurately detect seizures and to respond with the most appropriate type of stimulation.