Researchers at the Universities of Bonn and Oldenburg have developed a software model to help them study the processes involved in seizure generation and other extreme events in the brain.The model simulates the networks of nodes (neurons and/or specified brain regions) that exist in the brain, providing a visual depiction of the way in which they interact with each other.According to a paper published in the journal Physical Review X, the software makes it easier for researchers to analyse and understand the highly complex activity that takes place within and between neural networks. These follow very precisely determined rules of communication, but they also have the ability to change their behaviour dramatically in very spontaneous ways.It is during such changes that extreme events such as epileptic seizures or migraines can develop, as billions of neurons in the brain suddenly begin to behave exceptionally, overriding the rigid rules by which they typically operate.The researchers have shown that their software model behaves in a similar way, following simple core rules but sometimes changing its dynamics, seemingly at random.It is hoped that this software will provide a better understanding of the mechanisms that take place in the lead-up to extreme events in the brain, so that new preventative treatments can be developed. The knowledge gained is also likely to be applicable to other systems in the body, for example to study the patterns of activity in the heart.Gerrit Ansmann, lead author of the work and doctoral candidate in the neurophysics group, said: “We have now been able to show that the behavior of such networks can spontaneously change.”Click here for more articles about brain science including genetics.