Scientists Studying Relationship Between Epilepsy and Brain Injuries

A recent study conducted by researchers at Newcastle University may provide revolutionary insight, within the next 15 years, into the onset of epilepsy which sometimes follows brain injury. Their aim is to determine what exactly it is that produces epilepsy in some individuals following the kind of brain damage resulting from head trauma, infections and stroke. Researchers hope to begin to understand why some individuals recover comparatively well from neurological injury, while others experience “epileptogenesis;” a complicated series of neurological events which eventually culminates in epileptic seizures.  

Approximately 600,000 individuals suffer from epilepsy, comprising about 1 percent of the human population. Although the seizures of about 70 percent of these individuals are effectively controlled by medication, there remains a significant minority of the population at the mercy of the disease, which kills approximately 1,200 people a year.   

To date, neurologists and scientists have no way of distinguishing who is at risk of developing seizures following traumatic brain injury, and even if they were able to make such a distinction, there is currently no way of preventing or treating those who are at risk, or those who begin to exhibit the symptoms of epilepsy following their injury. The scientists were fortunate enough to receive a £147,000 donation from Epilepsy Research UK; an organization looking to contribute to the UK’s poorly study of the poorly funded research of the disease.  

The important organization has contributed to over a third of all funding to the study of epilepsy. Led by Dr. Andrew Trevelyan, his team intends to study mice brain samples in order to determine whether or to what extent seizure-like activity in neurons changes which genes they express; a result which will itself affect the behavior of neurons. The scientists believe that atypical gene expression changes may initiate the onset of epilepsy. The study is part of a continuing line of research for Dr. Trevelyan, who has previously published papers exploring the role of chloride in inhibiting nerve cells, which is important in preventing unusually intense brain activation.