James Britton, Department of Physiology, NUI Galway
Dr Leo Quinlan, Department of Physiology, NUI Galway
About the Project
The aim of the project is to develop a non-invasive intervention in epileptic encephalopathy, a group of epilepsies that includes Dravet Syndrome, Lennox Gastaut Syndrome, West Syndrome etc. These syndromes are characterised by brainwave abnormalities and the development of seizures early in life that are typically intractable, causing severe and long-term disabilities. The underlying mechanisms that evoke and drive seizures in these syndromes are not well understood and as result, effective treatments are lacking.
The proposed intervention is based on an emerging technology called Transcranial focused ultrasonic stimulation (TFUS). This is a type of non-invasive ‘neuromodulation’ which is one of the most promising areas of research in terms of drug-resistant epilepsy (other applications include VNS and deep brain stimulation). The researcher will investigate, in a laboratory environment using nerve cells derived from human patients, whether this technology can regulate the ‘firing’ of particular neurons associated with seizures in the encephalopathies. If it does, then there may be the basis for new treatments in future using TFUS to ‘activate’ the nerve cells in the brain region causing seizures.
Although some studies have shown potential therapeutic applications for TFUS in Parkinson's disease, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, neuropatic pain and Alzheimer disease, the technology has not been studied in epilepsy previously,