A new study, conducted by researchers at Duke University and the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience, could shed light on how certain types of epilepsy develop in the brain. This in turn could help scientists find new approaches to treat the condition. The study is published in the leading scientific journal, Nature.Co-Senior Author, Dr James McNamara, at Duke University, commented: “We’re beginning to unlock some of the mysteries underlying both the acquisition of a memory in the normal brain, as well as how a normal brain is transformed into an epileptic brain.”Using a mouse model, Dr McNamara and his team developed a molecular sensor that can track, in real time, the activity of a receptor called trkB, which is involved in the way neurons grow. The researchers were able to activate the trkB receptor by using a signalling molecule called glutamate, which plays a crucial role in the formation of memory. Interestingly, in mice where the trkB receptor was missing, neurons failed to grow in response to glutamate.Researchers in Dr McNamara’s laboratory had previously shown that TrkB is also involved in some cases of temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), and that inhibiting trkB signalling shortly after the first seizure could prevent the development of TLE in mice.In TLE seizures originate in the temporal lobe – the region of the brain that is important for the formation of short-term memory. TLE is thought to occur when glutamate is released at higher levels and for longer than normal.The team is currently working on understanding what happens after trkB is activated using the new molecular sensor that they developed.Author: Dr Özge ÖzkayaClick here for more articles about brain science including genetics.