Object. The management of intractable epilepsy remains a challenge, despite advances in its surgical and nonsurgical treatment. The identification of low-risk, low-cost therapeutic strategies that lead to improved outcome is therefore an important ongoing goal of basic and clinical research. Single-dose focal ionizing beam radiation delivered at necrosis- inducing and subnecrotic levels was investigated for its effects on seizure activity by using an established model of chronic recurrent spontaneous limbic seizures in rats.
Methods. A single 90-minute period of repetitive electrical stimulation (inducing stimulus) of the hippocampus in rats elicited a single episode of status epilepticus, followed by a 2- to 4-week seizure-free period. Spontaneous recurrent seizures developed subsequently and persisted for the duration of monitoring (2–10 months). Simultaneous computerized electroencephalography and video recording were used to monitor the animals. After the establishment of spontaneous recurrent seizures, bilateral radiation centered in the ventral hippocampal formation was administered with the Leksell gamma knife, aided by a stereotactic device custom made for small animals. A center dose of 10, 20, or 40 Gy was administered using a 4-mm collimator. Control animals were subjected to the same seizure-inducing stimulus but underwent a sham treatment instead of gamma irradiation.
In a second experiment, the authors examined the effects of gamma irradiation on the proclivity of hippocampal neurons to display epileptiform discharges. Naive animals were irradiated with a single 40-Gy dose, as already described. Slices of the hippocampus were prepared from animals killed between 1 and 178 days postirradiation. Sensitivity to penicillin-induced epileptiform spiking was examined in vitro in slices prepared from control and irradiated rat brains.
Conclusions. In the first experiment, single doses of 20 or 40 Gy (but not 10 Gy) reduced substantially, and in some cases eliminated, behaviorally and electrographically recognized seizures. Significant reductions in both the frequency and duration of spontaneous seizures were observed during a follow-up period of up to 10 months postradiation. Histological examination of the targeted region did not reveal signs of necrosis. These findings indicate that single-dose focal ionizing beam irradiation at subnecrotic dosages reduces or eliminates repetitive spontaneous seizures in a rat model of temporal lobe epilepsy. In the second experiment, synaptically driven neuronal firing was shown to be intact in hippocampal neurons subjected to 40-Gy doses. However, the susceptibility to penicillin-induced epileptiform activity was reduced in the brain slices of animals receiving 40-Gy doses, compared with those from control rats that were not irradiated. The results provide rational support for the utility of subnecrotic gamma irradiation as a therapeutic strategy for treating epilepsy. These findings also provide evidence that a functional increase in the seizure threshold of hippocampal neurons contributes to the anticonvulsant influence of subnecrotic gamma irradiation.