Press Conference to Announce $7.1 Million NIH Grant for Improved Epilepsy Treatment

A press conference to announce a new $7.1 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for research on epilepsy surgery will be held at Yale on Thursday April 25 at 3 p.m. in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, room 101, 63 High Street.

With the help of this grant, Yale researchers estimate that in about three years, they will be able to develop new technologies to reduce the14-hour-long surgery to correct seizures in epilepsy patients by about 50 percent.

A 44-year-old epilepsy patient who had corrective surgery six months ago will be at the conference. Researchers will describe her case and show images of her surgery. Background footage of how epilepsy surgery is performed will also be available to producers.

Yale President Richard C. Levin will make opening remarks, followed by Dean of Engineering Paul Fleury, School of Medicine administrators, the director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB), the new NIH Institute that awarded the grant, and the researchers. The grant will bring together physicians, imaging scientists and biomedical engineers as an interdisciplinary team to develop the technology that will enhance current procedures available for epilepsy patients.

Epilepsy is a sudden excitation that spreads through the brain and causes recurrent seizures that can severely impair a patient’s quality of life. Epilepsy is often caused by tumors, vascular malformations and developmental abnormalities. Of the 100 million people in the world with epilepsy, 30 percent can’t be treated with medication. For those patients, surgery is effective in curing epilepsy or reducing its symptoms.

“This is the only chronic neurological disease that can be cured overnight by surgery,” said Dennis Spencer, M.D., chair of neurosurgery at Yale and one of the researchers on the grant. “But we need to make the surgery as safe and accurate as possible. This grant will fund research to help us more effectively identify the source of the seizure using state-of-the art magnetic resonance imaging.”

The team will also be studying ways to better understand epilepsy, integrate the wealth of available image data and to provide a more accurate map of the brain for physicians performing these surgeries.

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