Neurophysiology of Excitable Networks Laboratory

The Neurophysiology of Excitable Networks Laboratory is focused on understanding the basis of neuronal excitability especially in the context of epilepsy. 

Epilepsy affects up to 4% of the population at some time in their lives. There are major challenges in clinical epilepsy care with at least 30% of patients resistant to current therapies. Even amongst those patients whose seizures are controlled, major issues of drug side-effects and co-morbidities often affect quality of life. Clinical and geneticist colleagues have discovered more than 30 genes associated with epilepsy with more getting discovered each month. However, knowing the genetic cause of epilepsy is not sufficient to tell you how seizures or epilepsy co-morbidities (eg learning difficulties) occur. A mutation in a protein can have its impact on several temporal and spatial scales and understanding the cellular consequence of these changes is central to our understanding, and eventual treatment, of epilepsy. The Neurophysiology of Excitable Networks Laboratory uses a range of experimental techniques to investigate dysfunction at each of these scales. In particular we use single-cell electrophysiology methods to directly measure neurons excitability. We also use state of the art imaging and molecular methods.

The laboratory's major recent discoveries have come in understanding the genetic epilepsies. Using mouse models of epilepsy based on human mutations we have identified new disease mechanisms (Brain 2014), as well as explaining some of the complexity of the genetic architecture of the epilepsies (Neurology 2013). Evidence that targeted therapy based on cellular mechanism can be effective in these rodent models exemplifies an exciting paradigm in which precision medicine in the epilepsies can advance.

The laboratory is funded through a large NHMRC Program Grant (2015-20) that involves close collaborations with clinical colleagues.

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