Friday, July 22, 2011

The importance of our brains’ resting state activity.

Pizoli et al find, in an open access article describing the clinical case of a young boy with epileptic encephalopathy who underwent successful corpus callosotomy surgery for treatment of drop seizures (i.e., separation of connections between the two hemispheres), that resting state brain activity (temporal synchrony across distributed brain regions termed resting-state networks that persists during waking, sleep, and anesthesia) is required for normal brain development and maintenance:
One of the most intriguing recent discoveries concerning brain function is that intrinsic neuronal activity manifests as spontaneous fluctuations of the blood oxygen level–dependent (BOLD) functional MRI signal. These BOLD fluctuations exhibit temporal synchrony within widely distributed brain regions known as resting-state networks. Resting-state networks are present in the waking state, during sleep, and under general anesthesia, suggesting that spontaneous neuronal activity plays a fundamental role in brain function. Despite its ubiquitous presence, the physiological role of correlated, spontaneous neuronal activity remains poorly understood. One hypothesis is that this activity is critical for the development of synaptic connections and maintenance of synaptic homeostasis. We had a unique opportunity to test this hypothesis in a 5-y-old boy with severe epileptic encephalopathy. The child developed marked neurologic dysfunction in association with a seizure disorder, resulting in a 1-y period of behavioral regression and progressive loss of developmental milestones. His EEG showed a markedly abnormal pattern of high-amplitude, disorganized slow activity with frequent generalized and multifocal epileptiform discharges. Resting-state functional connectivity MRI showed reduced BOLD fluctuations and a pervasive lack of normal connectivity. The child underwent successful corpus callosotomy surgery for treatment of drop seizures. Postoperatively, the patient's behavior returned to baseline, and he resumed development of new skills. The waking EEG revealed a normal background, and functional connectivity MRI demonstrated restoration of functional connectivity architecture. These results provide evidence that intrinsic, coherent neuronal signaling may be essential to the development and maintenance of the brain's functional organization.

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