VISE affiliates awarded $2.5 million NIH grant for continued epilepsy research

A team of Vanderbilt University engineers and surgeons has received a five-year, $2.5 million National Institutes of Health R01 grant to continue research into epilepsy-related seizures and brain networks.

Victoria Morgan, associate professor of radiology and radiological sciences, is the principal investigator. Bennett Landman, associate professor of electrical engineering and Dario Englot, assistant professor of neurological surgery, round out the leadership group at the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering.

“I am particularly excited about this project because it will be one of the first to quantify brain changes before seizures occur (or really recur) in humans,” said Morgan, who holds a secondary appointment as associate professor of biomedical engineering.

Victoria Morgan

The project, “The Role of Network Connectivity in Post-Surgical Seizure Recurrence in Temporal Lobe Epilepsy,” follows several years of related NIH-funded work to measure functional and structural brain networks tied to seizure propagation in epilepsy. The goal is to better pinpoint the mechanisms involved in post-surgery recurrence as well as improve pre-surgical predictors of long-term outcomes.

The team’s overall approach recognizes identification of the seizure focus is of primary importance in managing epilepsy, but mapping related widespread network activity provides critical information in understanding and predicting the effects and success of surgical treatment.

A subset of patients with temporal lobe epilepsy do not respond to anti-seizure medications, and surgery is one option for them. Yet even with a well-defined source of seizure propagation within the brain’s hippocampus, surgical resection produces varied outcomes. Post-surgery, between 58 to 80 percent of patients remain seizure-free.

“Our recent work suggests that while the seizure focus may be the same across this group of patients, the network of seizure propagation may be variable,” according to the researchers.

The new study will involve a pre-surgery MRI to establish a baseline and then MRIs at four time points within the first three years after surgery as well as PET scans.

The longitudinal information will allow comparisons between how networks evolve after surgery in patients that remain seizure-free over three years and networks in patients whose seizures recur.

The project, R01 NS110130 01, is administered through the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, includes collaboration between the Vanderbilt Institute for Surgery and Engineering (VISE), the Vanderbilt University Institute of Imaging Science (VUIIS) and the Vanderbilt University Medical Center Departments of Neurology and Neurological Surgery.

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