May 21, 2009

New epilepsy, schizophrenia clues found

British scientists say studying the way a person's brain sings could improve our understanding of conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia.

Researchers in Cardiff University's Brain Research Imaging Center say they've discovered a person's brain produces a unique electrical oscillation at a particular frequency when a person looks at a visual pattern. That frequency of oscillation, the scientists said, appears to be determined by the concentration of a neurotransmitter chemical, GABA in the visual cortex of each person's brain. The more GABA, the higher the frequency or note of the oscillation became.

GABA is a key inhibitory neurotransmitter and is essential for the normal operation of the brain.

Using sophisticated "¦ brain imaging equipment, we've found that when a person looks at a visual pattern their brain produces an electrical signal, known as a gamma oscillation, at a set frequency, Professor Kirsh Singh, who led the study, said. In effect, each person's brain 'sings' at a different note in the range 40-70 Hz.

The researchers said their findings have important implications, especially in terms of increasing our understanding of conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia, where it is known there might be a problem with GABA.

The study that included Suresh Muthukumaraswamy and Richard Edden is reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.