Seventy per cent of epileptics can live free from seizures by taking drugs prescribed by their doctor. For the other 30 per cent — however — things are more complicated.
Recently, Department of Physics and PERFORM Centre post-doctoral fellow Umit Aydin’s landed a Savoy Foundation post-doctoral fellowship worth $30,000 to pursue his research into this problem.
That 30 per cent of epileptic patients must see a team that consists of neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuropsychologists and even engineers who try to identify which part of the brain is causing the seizures. Typically a special electrode cap is used to measure brain waves — a process known as electroencephalography (EEG) — to localize trouble spots.
Aydin is taking such analysis further by utilizing the centre’s imaging equipment to get a more complete look at the brain.
“Although EEG technology provides very good temporal resolution, it is limited in the spatial resolution. On the other hand, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which basically measures changes in the blood flow and oxygen levels in the blood, has very good spatial resolution, but it lacks the ability to capture the fast changing activity in the brain. My research aims at measuring the EEG and fMRI simultaneously so we can get a more comprehensive map of the functioning of the brain.”
Aydin’s research will scan people without epilepsy and compare the results with those who have the disease. This will allow him to obtain valuable information on the differences of the brain connectivity between healthy and epileptic populations, which might later be used as a biomarker.
“Ultimately if we can identify the areas causing seizures we can use this information to provide surgeons with more precise information on which parts of the brain should be resected, and this will hopefully mean that patients can live a life free of seizures,” says Aydin.
Research will take place in the PERFORM Centre’s imaging suite in collaboration with the multimodal functional imaging lab and the epilepsy group in the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital at McGill University.