Grant round winners 2008

Surgery to remove a portion of the temporal lobe (situated behind the ear) is an effective way of treating temporal lobe epilepsy, the most common type of epilepsy in adults. Up to 70% of people who have the operation can become seizure-free afterwards. However, the operation carries a risk of damaging short-term memory, because this function is also located in the temporal lobe. Working out who would benefit from surgery includes detecting exactly where memories are processed in the brain and how much this overlaps with the areas where seizures start.

The standard way of locating memory function in the brain at present is with the Wada test. Here doctors switch off one half of the brain with a local anaesthetic while the patient does memory and word tests to evaluate the function of the other half. Delivery of the anaesthetic is done via a tube which is inserted into the big arteries in the groin and fed from there up into the brain. The test works, but it is stressful and demanding for patients, and also carries a risk of causing a stroke.

Modern brain scans offer an alternative to the Wada test. This study will use two different types of scan to develop a standardised procedure for evaluating memory function. If this is successful, this could replace the Wada test, and improve the process of evaluating patients for surgery.

Dr Steven Kemp of the Departments of Clinical Psychology and Neuropsychology at St. James’s University Hospital, Leeds, has been awarded £20,000 over 24 months to investigate Magnetoencephalography (MEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) as predictors of memory change following mesiotemporal epilepsy surgery: non-invasive alternatives to the Wada test.

This study has been entirely funded by the Matthew Peckett
Memorial Fund. We are grateful to the Peckett, Jones and Forester families for their long-standing support.

This is one of nine grants made by Epilepsy Research UK in 2008. Read about the other grants from 2008 here