Seizing Control: From Current Treatments to Optogenetic Interventions in Epilepsy

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The unpredictability and severity of seizures contribute to the debilitating nature of epilepsy. These factors also render the condition particularly challenging to treat, as an ideal treatment would need to detect and halt the pathological bursts of hyperactivity without disrupting normal brain activity. Optogenetic techniques offer promising tools to study and perhaps eventually treat this episodic disorder by controlling specific brain circuits in epileptic animals with great temporal precision. Here, we briefly review the current treatment options for patients with epilepsy. We then describe the many ways optogenetics has allowed us to untangle the microcircuits involved in seizure activity, and how it has, in some cases, changed our perception of previous theories of seizure generation. Control of seizures with light is no longer a dream, and has been achieved in numerous different animal models of epilepsy. Beyond its application as a seizure suppressor, we highlight another facet of optogenetics in epilepsy, namely the ability to create “on-demand” seizures, as a tool to systematically probe the dynamics of networks during seizure initiation and propagation. Finally, we look into the future to discuss the possibilities and challenges of translating optogenetic techniques to clinical use.

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