Dr Michael Cousin of the University of Edinburgh will be looking at neurotransmitters, this time at the cellular processes that govern their release. Neurotransmitters are essential to normal brain activity. However during a seizure, too much neurotransmitter is released, leading to the spread of the seizure, and also to brain damage (since neurotransmitters are toxic in large amounts). Dr Cousin was awarded £59,962.50 over three years for his project called “Mechanism of synaptic vesicle recycling in epilepsy“.

Synaptic vesicles are tiny compartments within neurones that release neurotransmitter molecules. Though we know how they work during normal brain behaviour, what happens during a seizure is unknown. The aim of this project is to find out what mechanisms govern the excessive release of neurotransmitters in epilepsy. The project will use state-of-the-art fluorescence imaging technology, which provides a series of snapshots of the movements of synaptic vesicles over time.

Understanding this process may allow researchers to identify targets for a new generation of AEDs, which would only affect cells that excessively release neurotransmitter. This would effectively target only “epileptic” cells, rather than dampening down activity throughout the whole brain, which is what currently available drugs do.