Research 8 July 2023

Improving outcomes for patients with epilepsy

Thanks to the generous support of the Charles Sykes Memorial Fund, we were able to invest £80,000 to help improve treatment and outcomes for patients with epilepsy.

Investigating the full potential of EEGs
The most important tool in the diagnosis of epilepsy is the EEG (electroencephalogram), a painless test that records brain activity. Generally, EEGs are recorded in a very passive fashion, with the patient resting and their mind allowed to wander. However, evidence from detailed intracranial recordings shows that the chance of seeing the electrical signatures of epilepsy is improved by engaging the patient’s brain in tasks that use specific regions of the brain. 

Our grant will enable Dr Joel Winston, Senior Lecturer in Clinical Neurophysiology, and his team to extend these findings to standard EEG tests carried out in outpatient settings. Patients will be asked to perform two specially adapted tasks to help reveal information in brain activity that will aid diagnosis and treatment. The study has the potential to help clinicians understand how thought processes interact with different regions of the brain to make the electrical signatures of epilepsy more or less likely to be seen with a standard EEG test. Thanks to our funding, the study may improve understanding of some of the cognitive difficulties experienced by patients with epilepsy and may ultimately help make diagnostic testing with EEG more rapid and accurate.

A new hope for drug-resistant epilepsy
NORSE or new onset refractory status epilepticus is a rare but devastating condition affecting previously healthy schoolchildren and young adults. It has frequent medication failures and often requires protracted intensive care. 

Neurologist Dr Laura Mantoan Ritter is using our grant to study vagus nerve stimulation (VNS), which consists of an implanted electrical stimulator that modulates brain activity by low-level stimulation of the vagus nerve in the neck. If successful, this study will expand the possibilities for therapeutic approaches for a condition that currently lacks effective treatment or clear consensus for patient management.

Currently, choosing the right antiseizure drug for each individual is still a matter of trial and error. Professor Deb Pal and his team, all of whom have expertise in neurology, genetics, molecular and cell biology and pharmacology, have discovered a genetic marker that predicts whether a patient will be less responsive to particular antiseizure drugs. Our grant to further explore this discovery could help develop new treatments for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy.

Tailor-made treatment
Seizures are amongst the most common symptom for people with brain tumours. However, there is currently no established international or national consensus regarding the use of prophylactic anti-seizure drugs (ASDs) in brain tumour patients who have not yet had a seizure.

We have awarded £10,000 to Dr Elisaveta Sokolov, Consultant in Clinical Neurophysiology to study the management of seizures in patients who have been newly diagnosed with low grade gliomas (LGG). This research has the potential to direct the use of ASDs and improve the treatment and outcomes of patients with brain tumours. The results of her investigations will help physicians decide whether to treat a newly diagnosed LGG patient with ASDs, thus preventing seizures at an earlier stage, as well as determine which patients might not need ASDs, avoiding potential unnecessary side effects.

Branded heart on yellow background

Protecting time for neurosurgery research

Great progress has been made since we provided funding to give consultant neurosurgeon, Mr Aminul Ahmed, protected time to research ways to improve outcomes for patients with traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury.