Grant round winners 2011

Approximately two-thirds of people with epilepsy successfully control their seizures with anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), but for the remaining third, AEDs are not effective (their epilepsy is said to be drug resistant or refractory) and other treatments must be sought. A carefully considered proportion of these people might be eligible for epilepsy surgery (the removal of epileptic tissue from the brain).

A Biomarker is a measurement taken from a living organism, which provides information about how a specific disease is developing, or whether a drug is providing any benefit. Examples of biomarkers include Hba1c for diabetic complications and prostate serum antigen for prostate cancer progression.

In epilepsy, fast brain waves recorded between seizures are considered a good biomarker for brain tissue that should be considered for removal during epilepsy surgery. The fastest of these waves are characteristic of epileptic foci (the region in which seizures originate), suggesting that they are caused by the same neuronal malfunctioning that is responsible for the development of epilepsy and initiation of seizures.

Professor John Jefferys and colleagues, at the University of Birmingham, have been awarded £99,800, over 36 months, to carry out a project entitled Mechanisms of high frequency activity in chronic epileptic foci, in which they will endeavour to find out what causes epileptic fast brain waves between seizures. The team intends to reproduce these waves in a model of temporal lobe epilepsy and test different theories about how they originate and the neurons and interactions responsible.

A better understanding of epilepsy-related fast brain waves will enable researchers to develop more effective treatments to inhibit them. It also has the potential to help refine the detection and interpretation of these waves in the clinical setting, with the aim of improving epilepsy surgery outcomes.