Grant round winners 2009

Epileptic seizures are caused by bursts of excess electrical activity in the brain, when neurons become too excitable. Yet what normally stops this from happening? One theory is that the brain is usually protected by a network of inhibitory neurons, which act like circuit breakers. These are activated if excitatory neurons become over active, and prevent seizure-like activity from spreading from its origin. This suggests that seizures are a result of a failure in the circuit breaker mechanism.

This idea is extremely important, because if proven, it could explain many different aspects of epilepsy; from how genetic mutations give rise to seizures, to the nature of EEG rhythms. However knowledge of this area is currently very limited.

Dr Andrew Trevelyan, of Newcastle University, has a particular interest in this aspect of epilepsy research, and he has helped develop a method of combining the latest microscopy and electric measurements to film epileptic activity in individual neurons.

Dr Trevelyan has been awarded £192,229, over 30 months, for a fellowship entitled Cortical circuit breakers: intrinsic mechanisms which oppose epileptiform activity, in which he will explore this special inhibitory mechanism and the role it plays in epilepsy. His findings will not only increase our understanding of epilepsy, but could potentially open new treatment avenues.