Grant winner 2014

Being able to predict a person’s response to an AED would enable us to offer the most appropriate treatment much sooner. This would make an enormous difference to quality of life.Professor Mark Richardson (pictured)

Grant type: Pilot grant in epilepsy

Principal investigator: Professor Mark Richardson

Institution: King’s College London

Amount: £29,172

Duration: 24 months

Scientific title: Seeking brain network markers which predict response to first anti-epileptic drug in new-onset treatment-naive Idiopathic Generalised Epilepsy

Why is this research needed?
The most common type of epilepsy is idiopathic (meaning of unknown cause) generalised epilepsy or IGE. When IGE is first diagnosed, most people will be treated with an anti-epileptic drug (AED), but only half will find their seizures stop completely in the following year. There are currently no tests to tell neurologists whether a person will respond to AED treatment, and this would be extremely useful.

Professor Richardson and collaborators at University College London have studied groups of people with IGE using EEG. They have used their findings to develop new methods, which have provided clues about how brain regions are connected in IGE. Importantly, these methods have revealed that the brain is connected differently in people whose seizures have stopped in response to initial AED treatment, compared to those whose seizures are continuing.

What are the aims?
The team now wants to see if it can take this further, and actually predict who will respond to drugs (when the treatment is being started for the first time), based on how the brain is connected. At this stage they don’t have enough data to design a definitive study, but they plan to conduct an initial pilot study.

How will the research be carried out?
During the project the group will use two methods (EEG and fMRI) to find out as much information as possible about brain networks (in healthy brains and newly diagnosed IGE), and decide whether there are likely to be any brain network ‘markers’ that are a) easy to locate and b) can accurately predict treatment response.  If the answer is yes, the researchers will then work out which tests and analysis methods will be best to identify these markers.

What difference will it make? 
If successful, this grant could ultimately lead to a new test that predicts whether a person will respond to initial AED treatment. This will help to avoid unnecessary trials of aggressive AEDs, and help to reduce delays before other (potentially more successful) therapies are explored.