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Nervenarzt. 2003 Aug;74(8):664-76.

[Electric brain stimulation for epilepsy therapy].

[Article in German]

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Department of Neurology, The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.


Attempts to control epileptic seizures by electrical brain stimulation have been performed for 50 years. Many different stimulation targets and methods have been investigated. Vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) is now approved for the treatment of refractory epilepsies by several governmental authorities in Europe and North America. However, it is mainly used as a palliative method when patients do not respond to medical treatment and epilepsy surgery is not possible. Numerous studies of the effect of deep brain stimulation (DBS) on epileptic seizures have been performed and almost invariably report remarkable success. However, a limited number of controlled studies failed to show a significant effect. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) also was effective in open studies, and controlled studies are now being carried out. In addition, several uncontrolled reports describe successful treatment of refractory status epilepticus with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). In summary, with the targets and stimulation parameters investigated so far, the effects of electrical brain stimulation on seizure frequency have been moderate at best. In the animal laboratory, we are now testing high-intensity, low-frequency stimulation of white matter tracts directly connected to the epileptogenic zone (e.g., fornix, corpus callosum) as a new methodology to increase the efficacy of DBS ("overdrive method").

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