The area of the brain in which seizures start is called the seizure focus. In this area, the normal electrical signalling of the brain is not always totally controlled. If the excitability gets out of control, a seizure arises. The seizure focus therefore often has different electrical properties to those of the normal surrounding tissue. The area’s response to stimulation with a magnet has also been found to change in the run-up to a seizure.

This project will look at how these electrical and magnetic features are related. Dr Mark Richardson at the Institute of Psychiatry, London has been awarded £59,991.74 over one year to conduct “Electrical and magnetic brain stimulation studies of the epileptogenic zone in man“. This will include whether stimulating the focus with a magnet produces a measurable electrical response, and whether the electrical properties of the focus change in the run-up to a seizure, in parallel to the magnetic changes. If these properties are related it may be possible to develop the use of EEG to forecast when a patient’s next seizure will happen, a completely non-invasive, cheap, easy and safe investigation. If an imminent seizure could be reliably predicted, in theory a new therapy could be developed for administration at this point. At the very least these investigations should tell us more about the electrical and magnetic properties of epileptic brain tissue immediately before a seizure, which should tell us more about how seizures start.

This is one of eight grants made by the Epilepsy Research Foundation (now Epilepsy Research UK) in 2006. Read about the other grants from 2006 here