What is Epilepsy?

Colloquially known as seizure disorder, "epilepsy" describes a diverse group of disorders that are characterized by two or more unprovoked seizures. Epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder, affecting approximately 3 million Americans and as many as 65 million people worldwide. The Epilepsy Foundation states that one in 10 people will have a seizure at some time in their life; one in 100 people will develop epilepsy. The precise etiology that leads to epilepsy is largely unknown in the majority of patients, although genetic, metabolic, post-traumatic and structural causes have been identified.

Although epilepsy affects people of all ages, children represent up to 30% of those diagnosed. Seizures during this crucial time in brain development are often associated with life-long cognitive deficits. These deficits are often more detrimental to quality of life than the seizures themselves, but unfortunately often go untreated. Our group seeks to understand the underlying mechanism behind these cognitive deficits, with the goal of eventually identifying effective treatment strategies to improve the lives of patients with epilepsy.

CSD

Where do epileptic spikes come from?

Current source density analysis from a 16-contact silicon probe in the hippocampus of a rat with epilepsy. Understanding how epileptiform activity travels through the hippocampus allows us to develop novel treatment strategies for patients with epilepsy.

Image credit: S. Flynn

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Developmental malformations and neural networks subserving cognition

Malformations of cortical development (MCDs) are associtated with intractable pediatric epilepsy and cognitive deficits. Understanding how neural networks are altered in a model of MCD allows us to begin to develop novel treatment strategies targeted at cognitive impairment. Here we are looking at the effect of environmental enrichment on pyramidal neuron networks in the hippocampus of animals with MCDs compared to normally-developing controls

Image credit: Hernan el al., submitted

benderetal2013

Sodium channels and cognition

Mutations in sodium channels are associated with epilepsy, and epilepsy is associated with cognitive deficits; but can sodium channel malfunction without seizures cause cognitive deficits?

Image credit: Bender el al., Neurbiol Dis 2013