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A Neuronal Avalanche Size (NAS) Assay to Screen for Cognitive Enhancers and Anti-Epileptics

Posted Jun 15 2010 5:00pm

Description of Invention:
Currently available methods of detecting and measuring EEG activity only crudely classify normal and abnormal activity or distinguish epileptic activity early in the onset of its deviation from normal activity. Available for licensing are methods for recognizing a new pattern of EEG activity called neuronal avalanche size (NAS) that has been correlated with cognitive function and epilepsy. The NAS uses extracellular field potentials to measure the distribution of synchronized neurons in the cortex (neuronal avalanches) and thus the state of the cortical network. When the avalanche size reaches a power law with a slope of -3/2, the system is in the critical state and the cortical network is functioning optimally to spread information throughout the network. If the system slope deviates from -3/2, the system is outside the critical state and is either epileptic or sub-critical. In animal studies measurement of NAS quantified a drug’s potential to increase cognitive functioning and induce or reduce epilepsy.

The NAS assay may thus enable high-throughput in vitro screens to select anti-epileptics and cognitive enhancing drugs for continued drug development. Because avalanches represent scale-invariant dynamics they can also be recorded using surface (EEG) electrodes. This technology may thus be useful in assessing cognitive function, epileptic pathology and in selecting and monitoring drug therapy for epileptic patients.

  • In vitro screen to assess drugs for potential use as anti-epileptics for drugs with the propensity to cause epilepsy.
  • In vitro screen to assess drugs with the ability to enhance cognitive function, and ultimately, relieve cognitive defects associated with psychiatric illnesses and neurological disorders.
  • EEG monitoring of patients for diagnosis and drug selection and monitoring.

Development Status:
In vivo and in vitro data are available.

Dietmar Plenz (NIMH)

Patent Status:
HHS, Reference No. E-294-2005/1
US, Application No. 11/990,419 filed 14 Aug 2006 claiming priority to 12 Aug 2005

Relevant Publication:
  1. JM Beggs, D Plenz. Neuronal avalanches in neocortical circuits. J Neurosci. 2003 Dec 3;23(35):11167-11177. [ PubMed abs ]
  2. CV Stewart, D Plenz. Inverted-U profile of dopamine-NMDA-mediated spontaneous avalanche recurrence in superficial layers of rat prefrontal cortex. J Neurosci. 2006 Aug 2;26(31):8148-8159. [ PubMed abs ]

Licensing Status:
Available for licensing.

Collaborative Research Opportunity:
The NIMH/Section of Neural Network physiology is seeking statements of capability or interest from parties interested in collaborative research to further develop, evaluate, or commercialize the NAS assay. Please contact Dietmar Plenz at for more information.

Devices/Instrumentation - Diagnostics
Central Nervous System
Central Nervous System - Diagnostics
Central Nervous System - Research Materials
In-vivo Data

For Additional Information Please Contact:
Charlene Sydnor Ph.D.
NIH Office of Technology Transfer
6011 Executive Blvd. Suite 325,
Rockville, MD 20852
United States
Phone: 301-435-4689
Fax: 301-402-0220

Ref No: 1533

Updated: 06/2010

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