New treatment techniques for epilepsy could be on the horizon after pioneering research using human brain tissue has shed new light on how best to tackle it.
For the first time, Newcastle University scientists have been able to record spontaneous epileptic activity in tissue taken from patients undergoing neurosurgery.
The research led by Dr Mark Cunningham shows that a distinct brain wave pattern associated with epilepsy is caused by electrical connections between nerve cells in the brain, and not chemical ones.
This means the traditional drugs are useless to them.
Dr Cunningham said the findings marked a huge step forward in our understanding of a condition which affects an estimated 45 million people worldwide.
"Until now we have only been able to mimic epilepsy using experimental animal models, but this can never give you a true picture of what is actually going on inside the human brain in epilepsy," he said.
"Our findings help us to understand what is going wrong and are an important step towards finding new epilepsy treatments in the future."
In almost 30% of epilepsy patients treatment with drugs does not work and some resort to surgery to remove the brain tissue responsible for the condition.
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).