Having epilepsy or a brain tumor is scary enough but that fear is compounded when patients face the possibility of speech and language deficits after corrective surgery.
Now they can rest a little easier thanks to the work of a DMC Children’s Hospital of Michigan and Wayne State University School of Medicine (WSUSOM) research team. After 10 years of continuous work they have developed a set of electronic tools that can draw 3D and 4D “space- and time-based” maps of the neuron-signaling across speech and language centers of the human brain.
Yup, that sounds complicated, and it is, but here’s the bottom line.
“Our 4D map will ultimately improve the quality of life in patients undergoing surgery designed to reduce epileptic seizures or remove brain tumors,” says Dr. Eishi Asano, director of neurodiagnostics at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and WSUSOM pediatric neurology researcher. Asano led the study, which was published in Brain, a leading international scientific journal based in the UK.
It is believed this is the first time neurology researchers have been able to look at the origin and propagation of electro-signaling related to speech and language centers at the whole-brain level at a temporal resolution of 1/100 seconds.
During the last decade, others have generated 3D maps of speech and language using functional imaging techniques measuring blood flow changes. However, Asano says these conventional techniques are unable to delineate the rapid dynamics of brain activation and deactivation taking place in the order of tens of milliseconds.
“Our study successfully added a timing dimension to the 3D brain surface image by measuring high-frequency electrographic activity directly from the brain surface during the surgical evaluation,” he says. “Our 4D whole-brain level map is a breakthrough discovery with the potential to improve outcomes for epilepsy and tumor patients, both pediatric and adult.”
The 10-year study examined electro-signaling activity in 100 patients whose brain-based speech and language centers were “mapped” with the newly developed high-tech tool. This technique is child-friendly and readily applicable to young children who may not be too cooperative to undergo conventional mapping examinations.
The 4D brain mapping technique can also help doctors understand how the section of the brain responsible for speech and language processing develop from infancy to adulthood.
Asano’s collaborators on the team included pediatric neurosurgeon Sandeep Sood, MD, and neuropsychologist Robert Rothermel, PhD, at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.
“These new brain mapping tools offer a great deal of promise to pediatric patients who struggle with epilepsy and brain tumors,” says Dr. Lalitha Sivaswamy, Children’s Hospital of Michigan chief of pediatric neurology. “Dr. Asano and his colleagues are certainly to be congratulated for the immense amount of work and energy that has gone into this research. Making life easier – and healthier – for patients who receive surgical therapy is a vitally important goal for all of us in pediatric medicine.”