How Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Can Treat Epilepsy

When medications fail to treat epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes seizures, surgery is the next option doctors explore.

However, only about 20% of patients are candidates for resective surgery, or surgery that would remove an area of the brain from which seizures (an unpredictable disruption in the brain’s electrical activity) originate.

“Sometimes seizures come from locations where you can’t take part of the brain out or they’re coming from multiple locations,” says Franklin Brown, PhD, chief of Yale Medicine Neuropsychology.

In these cases, neuromodulation, also known as neurostimulation, can help. This involves implanting devices in the body to control seizures, including an approach called deep brain stimulation (DBS). A device is implanted in the chest and is attached to wires that travel under the skin to the brain.

“Deep brain stimulation modulates the circuity that can help control the seizures, while sparing the critical areas of the brain,” says Eyiyemisi Damisah, MD, a Yale Medicine neurosurgeon and epilepsy specialist.

With DBS, electrodes reach the thalamus region of the brain and continuously stimulate the brain, thereby modulating the circuity from which seizures spread, Dr. Damisah explains.

In the video at, Yale Medicine specialists talk more about how DBS is used to treat complex epilepsy cases.