This week Epilepsy Research UK has been celebrating Brain Awareness Week, a global awareness raising campaign which aims to foster public enthusiasm and support for brain research. The campaign, organised by the DANA Foundation, marks it’s 25th anniversary this year.
Brain Awareness Week was created to unite organisations around the world under the common theme that brain research is the hope for treatments, preventions, and possible cures for brain diseases and disorders, and to ensure a better quality of life at all ages.
Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological conditions in the world, with around 1 in 20 people developing some form of epilepsy in their lifetime. Its impact on an individual varies depending on which part of the brain is affected. Although many people are able to control their epilepsy with medication, around one-third continue to have seizures despite optimum treatment. Despite the evidence of need and high prevalence of this potentially devastating disorder, research into epilepsy remains chronically underfunded.
In aid of this year’s Brain Awareness week we have been sharing some of the ways in which ERUK is disseminating knowledge and growing the global and regional research community through supporting investigations into the brain:
- ERUK Chairman Professor Matthew Walker and Scientific Advisory Committee member Dr Simon Keller presented the latest innovations and advances in epilepsy research at Sutcliffe Kerr Day at the University of Liverpool last week. The event, organised by the Liverpool Neuroscience Group, featured lectures from the -forefront of clinical neuroscience research.
- We are currently funding a project by Professor Maria Thom to restore and systematically catalogue the Corsellis collection, a unique archive of brain samples from patients with epilepsy dating back to 1950. “Restoration and systematic cataloguing of this archive will facilitate modern day epilepsy research.”
Read more about Professor Thom’s research here.
- In some cases of brain injury, people will go on to develop epilepsy. ERUK awarded Professor Andy Trevelyan & colleagues at the University of Newcastle a Project Grant to understand how epilepsy can be triggered after traumatic brain injury and explore prevention methods.
“This project has enabled us to further extend our understanding of the fundamental mechanisms by which seizures develop, and how the brain networks respond to these extreme periods of activity.”
Read more about the project grant here.
- Seizures in patients with brain tumours are common and debilitating. This ERUK-funded project by Ashan Jayasekera is developing a non-invasive scanning technique to map the regions of brain around a tumour which are responsible for patient’s seizures.
Find out more here.
- ERUK funded a cutting-edge computer modelling study by Professor John Terry and colleagues at the University of Exeter which aimed to improve the accuracy of focal epilepsy diagnoses to allow more prompt identification of the most effective treatments.
“Our computer-based tool offers real potential to bring personalised medicine into epilepsy, which will ensure that people presenting at clinic receive an effective diagnosis and rapid access to the most appropriate treatment.”
Find out more about Professor Terry’s work here.
- Exposure of a baby to certain antiepileptic drugs in the womb can cause birth defects and negatively impact brain development, leading to poor cognitive and social outcomes for the child. Over the past decade, researcher Dr Rebecca Bromley and colleagues have investigated the effect of taking AEDs during pregnancy on children’s health. This research led to new guidelines on the prescription of an AED – sodium valproate – to women of child- bearing age, preventing unnecessary risk to babies of women with epilepsy and other conditions for which this drug is prescribed.
Read more about it here.
- Saturday 21st March is also World Down’s Syndrome Day. People with Down’s syndrome have a greatly increased risk of developing epilepsy. This ERUK funded study by Dr Frances Wiseman developed a new tool to investigate epilepsy in Down’s syndrome-Alzheimer’s disease – find out more here.
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about our research this Brain Awareness week. If you’d like to discover more about the other vital research into epilepsy we are funding, you can find a selection of our key research projects here.