Can memories trigger seizures? Lethbridge neuroscientist explores the connections

Neuroscientist  Artur Luczak at the University of Lethbridge believes memories play a role in epilepsy. His team is conducting research using rats.

'The holy grail of this research is to find some ways to predict when the seizure will happen'

Many seizures are considered spontaneous because there is no known cause. (Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

​A neuroscientist at the University of Lethbridge believes memories play a role in epilepsy.

"This is a little bit of a futuristic idea but we have preliminary data suggesting that this could be true. So with this research, we can better understand the mechanisms of seizures and epilepsy," said neuroscientist Artur Luczak.

Luczak explains that while some seizures are prompted by flickering lights, odours and sounds, he thinks others are triggered by specific memories. 

"So let's say some people were in the past stressed out by a specific event and now when they subconsciously recall this event it can trigger seizure," said the professor.

He explains one of the biggest problems epileptics deal with are seizures occurring at unpredictable times. However, this could quickly change if Luczak's hypothesis turns out to be correct.

"By better understanding how the brain is getting into this seizure state, we can help design some better treatments in the future," he said.

He says this could lead to a treatment that suppresses a memory, which would be similar to drugs that treat PTSD.

"We can apply those drugs which can somehow reduce those memories and help people forget those particular stressful memories that were subconsciously evoking seizures," he explained.

Hypothesis to be tested on rats

Luczak says that in order to prove this, his team will be testing the theory on rats since their brains are similar to human brains. 

"By reading this activity of brain cells in the rats, we can get some idea of what the rats are thinking about and how it can trigger seizures," explained the researcher.

He says he believes seizures will manifest in the rats once they think about previously stressful situations.

"The holy grail of this research is to find some ways to predict when the seizure will happen," he said.

Luczak and his team were granted $530,000 to start their research, which will span the next five years.

"Many people are studying epilepsy and they are putting in electrodes to try to understand how epilepsy works," he said. "But this idea of linking memory to seizures and the type of experiments we proposed is really a novel idea on how to explore connections between memory and seizures." 

With files from Colleen Underwood