Traditional treatments for epilepsy may have been proved ineffective by scientists, who have studied tissue from the brains of people suffering with the condition.
A team from Newcastle University has found that a brain wave pattern linked with epilepsy is triggered by electrical connections, not chemical ones, making traditional drugs useless.
They studied brain tissue that had been removed from patients who were going through neurosurgery, finding spontaneous epileptic activity for the first time.
Dr Mark Cunningham, who led the research, said the findings were a huge advance in understanding epilepsy. He said: “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.
“Our findings help us to understand what is going wrong and are an important step towards finding new epilepsy treatments in the future.”
The disease affects around 45 million people worldwide, with almost 30% finding treatment with drugs ineffective.
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.