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Research into epilepsy focus

3 Apr 2002

Researchers in London are leading a new project designed to more accurately pinpoint where epilepsy might begin. The two-year study could potentially lead to improved targeted treatments and surgery for people with the condition.

Most cases of epilepsy can be controlled by medication. But for about 20 per cent of people there is no effective medication and surgery may be considered. However, it can only take place if the area of the brain that triggers the seizures can be pinpointed accurately.

Professor David Fish and Dr Louis Lemieux, of University College London’s Institute of Neurology, are recognised world leaders in using a technique which combines the recording of electroencephalograms (EEG) and functional MRI to obtain brain scans during the occurrence of what are known as ‘spikes’.

These spikes indicate electrical activity in the brain and they are much more frequent than seizures and therefore easier to record. Patients are completely unaware they are having them.

The aim of this new two-year grant, funded by the medical research charity Action Research, is to improve the identification of the origin of the spike in 12 patients and establish its relevance to the epilepsy.

Dr Lemieux said:

"In a sense, we would like to be able to show that this technique can help in localising the epileptic focus, which is the abnormal part of the brain that gives rise to seizures and which must be treated or removed to cure the epilepsy."