Mapping Brain Areas Responsible for Language to Improve Surgery Outcomes

Traditionally, language abilities were thought to only involve two areas of the brain, known as Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas. Based on this understanding, seizure surgery that avoids these areas should not lead to speech problems. However, through more dynamic studies of the brain, we now know that speech and language abilities may involve other area(s) of connected cells (referred to as networks) within the brain, and may also vary from patient to patient.

Dr. Liz Pang from the Hospital for Sick Children and Dr. Taufik Valiante from Toronto Western Hospital have been conducting a series of studies to identify the language networks in the brain. Using electroencephalography (EEG) brain wave monitoring while patients performing a variety of language tasks, they are able to identify the areas in the brain that are crucial for language. Importantly, this is being done with non-invasive EEG where electrodes (sensors) are placed on the scalp before surgery, instead of using the typical electrodes placed directly on the exposed brain during surgery.

Early results in healthy children and adults highlight the effectiveness of using this method for mapping language networks within the brain. Drs. Pang and Valiante are now running a study in children with drug-resistant epilepsy to see if brain monitoring before surgery can be just as effective as monitoring during surgery and whether this less invasive, pre-surgical method can reduce the risk of having speech problems following surgery.

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Status: Recruiting

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