Grant round winners 2013

It is widely recognised that having a stroke greatly increases a person’s risk of epilepsy, and statistics show that stroke is the most common cause of epilepsy in people over the age of 60. Every year approximately 150,000 people in the UK suffer a stroke, and this can cause significant brain injury due to bleeding or blockage of the blood supply. In the immediate phase of a stroke, inflammation at the site of damage can cause a seizure. Seizures can also occur much later, however, and these are the ones that carry the most risk of epilepsy development; particularly if they are recurrent.

The reasons why some people develop epilepsy after a stroke and others don’t are not fully understood. Dr Beate Diehl and colleagues, at University College London, have been awarded £29,080 over 12 months, for a pilot grant entitled Imaging and EEG Predictors of Post-Stroke Epilepsy, in which they will try to identify risk factors for post-stroke in a small group of people.

During the study, the team will analyse – using powerful computerised methods – existing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans from a group of over 500 patients who have already taken part in a stroke research trial. In this way they hope to gain a better understanding of how the brains of people with and without post-stroke epilepsy differ. Selected subjects from the group (both with and without epilepsy) will then be offered the chance to participate in a further study in which the neuronal connections and networks in their brains will be examined using functional MRI and simultaneous EEG recordings.

By the end of the project, the researchers hope to have found features within the brain that are indicative of post-stroke epilepsy, which could easily be looked for in people immediately after a stroke. Such a tool would help to identify those who are likely to benefit from early epilepsy treatment, or even preventative interventions; and ultimately improve the outcomes of post-stroke epilepsy.