Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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Highlights of Epilepsy Research at IBR


Electrophysiology Laboratory — Jeffrey Goodman, PhD

Approximately 30% of individuals with epilepsy are unresponsive to currently available therapies, and the incidence of epilepsy is greatly elevated in individuals with developmental disabilities. The development of new therapies for epilepsy requires a better understanding of the anatomical and physiological changes that occur in the brain before the first seizure occurs. Many patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) will develop epilepsy weeks to months after the initial insult. Experimental models of TBI provide an opportunity to study the brain as it becomes epileptic. IBR’s Electrophysiology Laboratory, headed by Jeffrey Goodman, PhD, is currently using advanced tissue-clearing techniques to make experimental brain tissue transparent. This technique will allow for the identification of biomarkers of the epileptogenetic process that could be targets for therapeutic intervention. In a separate study, the laboratory is collaborating with scientists at SUNY Downstate Medical Center to test the efficacy of a new antiepileptic drug, brivaracetam.

Morphometry Laboratory — Jerzy Wegiel, VMD, PhD

The frequency of epilepsy in individuals with autism is increased but variable, ranging from 5% to 38%. Brain studies at IBR have revealed abnormalities in the development and migration of neurons that result in disorganization and seizures. These alterations are present in almost all individuals with autism, but only large lesions initiate seizures. In individuals with a specific form of autism due to chromosome 15 duplication, the number of developmental brain defects is several times more than in individuals with sporadic autism. The result is a significant increase of the risk of intractable epilepsy and sudden unexpected death.

IBR researchers are currently conducting studies to identify the brain areas with an increased prevalence of the alterations that can cause seizures in order to help develop new diagnostic procedures and new treatments.