The Italian Almanac

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brain scan

Italian Science - November 28

Italian scientists have found a way to pinpoint the nerve centres in the brain where epileptic fits are triggered. The new technique will enable surgeons to operate with precision to alleviate the condition.

For the first time, the Italian team has been able to use two brain scanning techniques which have hitherto been incompatible. The first is a relatively new tool called functional magnetic resonance scanning (fMRS). The second is a conventional electroencephalogram (EEC, electric brain scan). Up till now the two scans could not be used together because they interfered with each other electronically.

The Italian team has constructed special screens which enable them to be used together. "The screens mean we can use the fMRS at exactly the same time as the EEC to identify with great precision the areas in the brain where energy peaks when an epileptic fit occurs," said the team leader, Rome Policlinico bio-engineer Luigi Bianchi.

One of his assistants, Maria Grazia Marciani, said: "Surgeons will thus be able to map out with great precision the areas of the brain that cause the seizures and therefore have to be eliminated." The breakthrough, made by a team from the Policlinico di Tor Vergata, Rome's Enrico Fermi Center and Rome's Fondazione Santa Lucia, was presented Sunday at the annual congress of the Italian Association of Sleep Medicine.