£1m boost for Liverpool epilepsy research

University of Liverpool scientists have been awarded £1m by the Medical Research Council to research the brain mechanisms contributing to cognitive problems and treatment outcome in people with a new diagnosis of epilepsy.

Newly diagnosed epilepsy

Every day in the UK, 87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy, affecting over 600,000 people. Many people with a new diagnosis of epilepsy will experience memory and other cognitive problems. The cause of these problems is unknown.

Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are used to control seizures in people with epilepsy. However, up to 40% of people with epilepsy fail to have their seizures controlled by AEDs. It is currently impossible to predict which patients will have seizures controlled in the early stages of epilepsy.

Liverpool Epilepsy Research Group

Researchers from the University’s Institute of Translational Medicine, led by Dr Simon Keller, will use sophisticated brain imaging techniques to understand how the brain is affected in the early stages of epilepsy.

An important part of the research will be to follow patients up through the early stages of the disorder and to determine whether brain anatomy and physiology at the time of diagnosis can explain cognitive impairment and predict future treatment outcome.

Dr Simon Keller, who also leads the neuroimaging arm of the Liverpool Epilepsy Research Group, said: “The vast majority of research in people with epilepsy has been performed in people with longstanding epilepsy. Newly diagnosed epilepsy is rarely studied despite that this is a key time to understand the underlying biology of epilepsy and identify potential interventions.

“Because there is little research in the early stages of human epilepsy, we have limited information on the causes of cognitive impairment in patients, and few insights into potential biomarkers of treatment outcome.

“We hope that our prospective and longitudinal multi-disciplinary research will provide key insights into these factors. Ultimately we hope that our research findings will inform future clinical practice.”

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