Learn More About Epilepsy Research Studies

What Are Epilepsy Research Studies?

Epilepsy is defined as a chronic noncommunicable brain disease that can affect people of all ages. According to the World Health Organization, around 50 million people with the condition worldwide. It is rather astounding to conclude that a majority of people with epilepsy live in middle and low-income countries.

When it comes to conducting research in the field, the possibilities are endless. The field is comprehensive and broad and facilitates studies that involve many areas of exploration. For example, physicians and nurses mainly test experimental treatments for the condition, while neuroscientists study cell activity in a culture dish. Then there are physicists, radiologists, and neurologists who investigate better ways to view brain function in humans and animals.

Epilepsy research studies involve various scientific studies on people who are healthy and also the ones with medical disorders. The research mainly concentrates on the causes, diagnosis, and treatment of the many forms of epileptic disorders.

Epilepsy Research Studies

Many antiepileptic medications are tested based on results from clinical epilepsy studies. Recent studies are looking into non-medicinal therapies such as electrical brain stimulation and new forms of brain surgery.

Most epilepsy research studies focus on brain imaging, brain development, and genetics. They look into tools for viewing different structures and functions of the brain, such as positron emission tomography (PET), magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). They also determine how these techniques play a role in epilepsy diagnosis.

However, it is also important to acknowledge that many advances in understanding epilepsy causes have arisen from research focused on genetics. It is through these studies that the importance of hereditary factors has come to the forefront of epilepsy research.

Furthermore, research into brain development is also crucial to determining epilepsy causes because many seizure disorders often develop in childhood. Additional areas of interest in epilepsy research include the study of magnetic or electrical brain waves, the relationship between epilepsy and functions such as sleep, and understanding how brain function is disturbed by seizures.

Why Is Epilepsy Being Studied Through Research Studies?

There's growing hope that identifying the underlying causes of epilepsy will lead to more effective treatments in the future. Since there are many different kinds of epilepsy, understanding what factors are involved in causing each of them can help researchers make groundbreaking progress in the field.

Furthermore, seizures and epilepsy are not always correlated. Hence, lab research aims to answer many questions about the condition. However, research is important not only for understanding the underlying causes but also for understanding how genetic abnormality, brain function defects, and brain injury lead to a certain type of epilepsy.

Even with seizures, researchers are trying to wrap their heads around how they start, spread, and stop; why specific types of seizures happen at certain ages; and how effective antiepileptic medications are when it comes to blocking them.

To answer these questions, scientists depend on various animal models of epilepsy. They start by studying lab animals who have provoked seizures and slowly gain insight into what mechanisms are at play when looking at epilepsy in humans. Animal studies usually involve rodents since they are easy to work with and have responses and brain structures similar to humans.

What Are the Types of Treatments Available for Epilepsy?

Epilepsy Treatment

Before getting into the treatment methods, it's important to establish that accurate diagnosis is extremely important for determining how to treat epilepsy. There are several different ways to control seizures successfully.

Since doctors come from different fields of medicine and include family physicians, neurologists, internists, pediatric neurologists, pediatricians, as well as neurosurgeons, the treatment approaches can vary significantly. However, medications aren't very successful in controlling the condition once seizures and their consequences are established.


Treatment approaches are used based on the type of epilepsy in question. The most common approach is prescribing anti-seizure drugs. Healthcare professionals usually recommend a drug called monotherapy to control seizures.

In a nutshell, determining the type and dosage of a drug depends on factors such as age, lifestyle, seizure type, seizure frequency, side effects of drugs, and much more. In some cases, it may even take up to several months to determine the right drug and dosage.

Keto Diet

There isn't a single dietary approach that can be used on every epileptic individual. Diets are deemed appropriate based on the type of epilepsy and the individual's age. A low-carb and high-fat ketogenic diet is usually recommended for medication-resistant epilepsies.

The Keto diet helps induce a state of ketosis in which the body begins breaking down fats instead of carbohydrates for survival. While it is considered effective in reducing seizures for some people, it isn't easy to maintain. The equation also has possible side effects, such as a buildup of uric acid in the blood and impaired growth because of nutritional deficiency.

Surgical Procedures

Surgery mainly aims to remove a defined area of the brain that gives rise to seizures. This type of surgery is known as lobectomy, and it is only appropriate for focal seizures that develop in a single area of the brain.

Thermal ablation is another type of surgery where a set amount of energy is directed to a specific brain region where seizures originate. This energy, when converted to thermal energy, attacks and destroys brain cells that cause seizures.

Multiple subpial transection is performed when seizures develop in an area of the brain that can't be removed. The procedure involves making precise cuts to stop seizures from spreading into other brain parts.

Hemispherectomy involves removing almost half of the brain's outer layer. This procedure is usually used in children who experience seizures but are unresponsive to medication due to damage in half the brain.

What Are Some Recent Breakthrough Research Studies on Epilepsy?

2022: Whole-Brain Study Shows How Epileptic Seizures Originate

In this study, researchers tracked neuron activity throughout the entire brain during seizures. They were able to show that the seizures were a result of excess "excitatory" over "inhibitory" brain cell activity. The researchers also suggested prior research often pointed to inhibitory neurons because seizure triggers may have detected these highly inhibitory propagation zones instead of the initiating zone.

2022: Risk Of Seizures Is Higher After Covis-19 Than After Influenza

In this study, the researchers determined the health records of people with COVID-19 infections. They were also matched to those with influenza during the same period. Other factors, such as sex and age, were also considered. It is important to note that none of the participants in either group was diagnosed with recurrent seizures or epilepsy before. The researchers then determined whether people developed seizures or epilepsy in the next six months.

Participants with COVID-19 were 55% more likely to develop seizures or epilepsy than those with influenza. The rate of new cases of seizures or epilepsy was 0.94% in those with COVID-19, compared to 0.60% in those with influenza. However, there was a limitation to the study. The researchers couldn't identify which virus variants participants were infected with. This factor (if it was taken into account) could have influenced the final results.

2022: Breakthrough Tech Enables Seizure Localization In Minutes

This breakthrough research from Carnegie Mellon University has introduced a technology that makes use of minimally invasive electrophysiological recordings to localize seizures and predict outcomes. Before this, clinicians often drilled holes into the skull to put electrodes in the brain to record electrical activity. The approach was extremely uncomfortable, costly, and time-consuming since it required the patients to stay in the hospital for weeks.

However, thanks to the new network analysis technique used in this study, it is easy to pinpoint brain regions that cause seizures to originate. Hence, it is also easy to predict a patient's outcome even before the surgery takes place. Only ten minutes of resting state recordings were needed without waiting for seizures to occur.

Who Are Some Of The Key Opinion Leaders / Researchers / Institutions Conducting Epilepsy Research Studies?

VMUC Department of Neurology

The VMUC Department of Neurology facilitates both basic and clinical research in epilepsy. Most research focuses on fMRI imaging, drug trials, surgery, and clinical genetics. In fact, the surgical director for epilepsy recently got a $3 million NIH grant for more research. Most of these trials are focused on controlling seizures in those who have drug-resistant epilepsies.

Dr. Andre Lagrange

Dr. Lagrange's lab incorporates electrophysiological techniques with immortalized cultured cells and brain slices to study the tuning of inhibitory neurotransmission during epilepsy. His lab has also found that a GABA receptor in early life can be subject to RNA editing in a developmentally regulated fashion. Furthermore, he's also involved in the mentoring and teaching of fellows, residents, and undergraduate and graduate students. He is also a reviewer for Epilepsia, Epilepsy & Behavior, Epilepsy Research, Journal of Physiology, Neurology, and Neuropharmacology.

University of Gothenburg

With both national and international collaborations, the Epilepsy Research Group has a number of research interests. The department is mainly interested in comorbidities in epilepsy, the development of antiepileptic treatments, the cognitive effects of epilepsy, and much more. The research they focus on also includes methodological development of neuroimaging and treatment outcomes.

University of Chicago Neuroscience Community

The neuroscience community of the University of Chicago hosts a large group of researchers dedicated to investigating seizure and epilepsy disorders. The department of neurology faculty plays a vital role in this research as it conducts both neurophysiological and clinical studies. The director of a research program here, John Ebersole MD, helps his team clarify the relationships between cerebral electrical activity and the resultant scalp EEG. Furthermore, his team is also researching developing computational techniques to localize seizures using MEG (magnetoencephalography), intracranial EEG, and scalp.

In the last 15 years, several researchers from this lab have helped establish the efficacy of spike and seizure dipole modeling with both MEG and EEG to localize seizures in epilepsy surgery candidates. This isn't it. The current projects also include accuracy studies for dipole and other extended source models of epileptic foci, developing techniques for intracranial EEG by utilizing source and field display on the patient's newly constructed cortex.