Grant round winners 2008

Understanding exactly how seizures start is important in two ways: firstly, to develop warning system for people with active epilepsy, to alert them in good time when a seizure is about to happen; and secondly, to develop a treatment method that targets the very first stages of a seizure, ideally stopping it before it develops very far.

Epilepsy Research UK (and previously Epilepsy Research Foundation) have been long-standing supporters of a group of researchers at the University of Birmingham who are investigating a particular pattern of electrical activity that occurs right at the beginning of a seizure, just at the point where normal brain activity changes to seizure activity.

This important pattern consists of clumps of very fast spikes of electrical current, with about 200 spikes per second. Each individual spike is caused by a tiny group of neurones firing together. Collections of these firing groups (called neuronal clusters) generate the whole pattern. This pattern is part of how a seizure begins, and also appears to be involved in the development of epilepsy itself.

Having studied this feature of seizures in slices of brain in a laboratory, first with communication between cells blocked, then with it intact, Dr Premysl Jiruska will now investigate it in live subjects using implanted EEG electrodes. He has been awarded the eighth Sir Desmond Pond Fellowship to look at High-frequency activity and transition to seizure in experimental temporal lobe epilepsy. This prestigious award, of £191,468 over 36 months, will allow him to apply the same sophisticated computer analysis techniques developed in the previous projects to look at the development of epilepsy and the build-up to seizures in the latest most realistic model.

This is one of nine grants made by Epilepsy Research UK in 2008. Read about the other grants from 2008 here