Grant winner 2017

‘I have studied how different proteins change the activity of neurons for many years. More recently I realised that these same changes can be involved in epilepsy. I am now working to apply what I’ve learned about modifying neuronal activity to try and calm down the activity of neurons that trigger seizures.’ Dr Stephanie Schorge (pictured)

Grant type: Pilot grant

Principal investigator: Dr Stephanie Schorge

Institution: University College London

Amount: £12,845

Duration: 12 months

Scientific title: Understanding the dorsoventral profile of epileptiform activity

Background
Epileptic seizures often originate in the hippocampus, an important memory structure located deep within the brain. The hippocampus is curled and crescent-shaped, and while both ends look similar superficially, they are very different. For reasons that are not fully understood, the front (ventral) end is much more likely to generate seizures than the back (dorsal) end. Here, Dr Schorge and Dr Gareth Morris will explore why this is the case, so that they can better understand what makes the ventral part so likely to trigger seizures and, in contrast, why the dorsal part is protected.

The study
During the study, the team will record epileptic signals in thin tissue slices obtained from each end of the hippocampus. They will compare the behaviour and properties of individual brain cells to see how those from the dorsal and ventral parts differ, and how these differences correlate with seizure activity. They will focus in particular on two proteins and how their function can affect the seizure threshold of brain cells. Towards the end of the grant, the group will hopefully be able to use the knowledge they have gained to test ways of blocking seizures in the ventral part of the hippocampus.

Significance
If successful, this project will identify specific features that make the ventral hippocampus so vulnerable to seizures and, potentially, ways of ‘protecting’ it. In the medium term, this could provide a springboard for the development of new epilepsy treatments that selectively target the ventral hippocampus with minimal side effects.

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