Epilepsy is the most common serious neurological disorder of children and one of the major neurological conditions affecting the general population. Up to 10 percent of people will have a seizure at some time in their life. Anti-epileptic drugs have significant shortcomings and almost a third of patients are unable to achieve adequate seizure control. At present, surgery is the main recourse for these patients, who often live for 10 or more years with untreatable epilepsy prior to surgical intervention. New therapeutics are urgently needed to not only treat patients that don’t respond to current anti-epileptic drugs but to also reduce the serious side effects of these medications.
Epilepsy Imaging & structure
Epilepsy Imaging: Through the use of advanced MRI imaging methods we continue to make major advances in understanding epilepsy. These advances are rapidly translated to improved patient care through Victorian Epilepsy Centres’ comprehensive epilepsy programs; one of these is at the Austin Hospital in Heidelberg where the Florey imaging team is an integral part of the investigation and treatment of epilepsy in patients.
Human brain structure and function: In order to better understand the cognitive impacts of epilepsy, our scientists use advanced neuroimaging techniques to map the functional effect of epilepsy in several cognitive domains. One of the key issues in brain surgery during removal of an epileptic focus is potential damage to the normal functioning of the patient. For the best possible outcome, we need a good understanding of how normal brain function is organised, and how this may be perturbed in a person with epilepsy. Our scientists have mapped disease-related changes in brain regions responsible for language, memory, music (singing), and are also examining changes in these domains post- surgery.
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Ion channels and neurobiology
Ion channels and disease: Genetics plays a major role in epilepsy. In particular, subtle changes in the properties of mutated ion channel proteins have been identified as the cause of many cases of human epilepsy. Using advanced electrophysiological and biophysical tools, the group’s efforts focus on exposing the fundamental physiological changes that predispose people to epilepsy, thereby revealing methods and approaches for diagnosis and therapy.
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Neurobiology of epilepsy: The goal of the multi-disciplinary Neurobiology of Epilepsy group is to use analysis, data, and computational power to reveal the neural mechanisms that cause epilepsy. Genetic engineering, seizure threshold analysis, EEG analysis, quantitative morphology, physiology and computation are all combined to achieve this goal.