School of Psychology News & events

Research Summary

Singh, K, Hamandi, K (2013 - 2014) Neurophysiological Markers of Altered Neural Networks in BECCTS. Waterloo Foundation. £26,037.

Specialist Summary

Benign Epilepsy of Childhood with Centro-Temporal Spikes (BECCTS) is associated with psychobehavioural deficits, particularly in the motor and language systems. Impairments in several domains co-occur to different degrees in children with BECCTS, suggesting that these may be due to a common mechanism that affects neural networks across the brain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies have shown several characteristic resting state networks that reflect areas involved in sensory and cognitive processes, which are altered in many neuropsychiatric disorders as well as epilepsy. Recently, resting state patterns can also be analysed using electrophysiological methods that allow a direct assessment of the role of synchronous neural firing. Oscillatory synchronisation is thought to underlie neural communication and is an informative measure of both local processing and long-distance network activity. Studying synchronisation patterns can reveal correlations within and between the different brain areas associated with specific cognitive domains. Here, we hypothesise that background network activity, particularly in regions involved in sensorimotor or language processing, will reveal the neural basis of the co-occurring deficits in BECCTS and how these develop over time. We propose to study this using magnetoencephalography. Clarifying the network activity underlying co-occurring deficits in BECCTS and comparing these to domain-specific local activity will contribute to improving diagnosis and treatment for BECCTS.

Non-Specialist Summary

Many children suffer from epilepsy, which greatly affects the child’s and family’s quality of life. Rolandic epilepsy is a type of epilepsy that occurs in childhood and can be associated with difficulties in multiple behavioural skills, particularly in movement and language. To improve the way we treat and hence quality of life for children suffering from rolandic epilepsy it is important to understand what happens in the brain. Different areas in the brain are devoted to particular tasks such as movement and language. However, all this activity needs to be combined for efficient brain processing and functioning in the world. Thus, brain areas need to communicate with each other. It is thought that brain cells that fire in a rhythmic pattern play an important role in this communication, yielding activity that can synchronise across distant brain areas. Changes in rhythmic firing happen when engaged in tasks, but rhythmic patterns of activity can also be seen when a person is not doing any task in particular. These resting patterns of distributed brain activity are now being discovered using modern brain imaging techniques and appear to form highly consistent networks that have been shown to be altered in certain disorders affecting the brain, such as autism and epilepsy, and thus play an important role in healthy brain functioning. To understand the basis of co-occurring problems with behavioural skills in BECCTS, it is therefore crucial to study patterns of both local processing, in this case movement and language, and how brain areas communicate during the resting state.