Scientists are studying underlying causes of the epilepsies in children, adults and the elderly as well as seizures that occur following brain trauma, stroke and brain tumors. Ongoing research is focused on developing new model systems that can be used to more quickly screen potential new treatments for the epilepsies. The identification of genes or other genetic information that may influence or cause the epilepsies may allow doctors to prevent the disorders or to predict which treatments will be most beneficial to individuals with specific types of epilepsy. Scientists also continue to study how neurotransmitters interact with brain cells to control nerve firing and how non-neuronal cells in the brain contribute to seizures. Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have developed a flexible brain implant that could one day be used to treat seizures. Scientists are continually improving MRI and other brain scans that may assist in diagnosing the epilepsies and identify the source, or focus, of the seizures in the brain. Other areas of study include prevention of seizures and the role of inflammation in epilepsy. Patients may enter trials of experimental drugs and surgical interventions.
The HHS NIH National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) funds various research programs related to epilepsy. NINDS also partners with the Department of Defense’s Epilepsy Research Program and the CDC’s Epilepsy Program. NINDS established the Centers Without Walls program in 2010 to rapidly advance epilepsy research through promoting interdisciplinary, collaborative research.
Five research collaboratives have been funded thus far:
- The Epilepsy 4000 collaborative has examined genetic data from 4,000 individuals in order to understand the genes underlying epilepsy. Visit the Epilepsy 4000 website
- The Center for SUDEP Research brings together extensive expertise to understand Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy. Visit the Center for SUDEP Research website
- The Epilepsy Bioinformatics Study for Antiepileptogenic Therapy will use studies of animals and patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) leading to post-traumatic epilepsy (PTE) in order to develop future clinical trials of epilepsy prevention therapies. Visit the Epilepsy Bioinformatics Study for Antiepileptogenic Therapy website
- The Channelopathy-Associated Epilepsy Research Center will combine high-throughput technologies and high-content model systems to investigate the functional consequences of genetic variants in channelopathy-associated epilepsy. Visit the Channelopathy-Associated Epilepsy Research Center website
- The Epilepsy Multiplatform Variant Prediction Center Without Walls will develop a modular, highly integrated platform approach to accelerate determination of the functional, pharmacological, neuronal network and whole animal consequences of genetic variants among a range of clinical epilepsy types. Visit the Epilepsy Multiplatform Variant Prediction Center Without Walls website