Dr Rajiv Mohanraj

£1m boost for epilepsy research

Epilepsy patients at Salford Royal are to take part in a £1m study into brain networks involved in epilepsy and how they are modified by treatment.

The Medical Research Council is funding the study with newly diagnosed patients, which will see researchers using sophisticated brain imaging techniques to understand how the brain is affected in the early stages of epilepsy.

Consultant Neurologist Dr Rajiv Mohanraj, who runs the Greater Manchester Regional Epilepsy Service, is working with colleagues from the University of Liverpool, led by Dr Simon Keller.

Epilepsy is one of the most common serious brain disorders, with seizures that severely affect quality of life. More than 600,000 people in the UK are affected and more than 80 people a day are newly diagnosed. Many of these will experience memory and other cognitive problems but the cause of these problems is unknown.

Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are used to control seizures in people with epilepsy. However, up to 40% of people with epilepsy fail to have their seizures controlled by AEDs. It’s currently impossible to predict which patients will have seizures controlled in the early stages of epilepsy.

An important part of the research will be to follow patients through the early stages of the disorder and to determine whether brain anatomy and physiology at the time of diagnosis can explain cognitive impairment and predict future treatment outcome.

Dr Keller said: “Because there is little research in the early stages of human epilepsy, we have limited information on the causes of cognitive impairment in patients, and few insights into potential biomarkers of treatment outcome.

“We hope that our prospective and longitudinal multi-disciplinary research will provide key insights into these factors. Ultimately we hope that our research findings will inform future clinical practice.”

Dr Mohanraj said: “We are delighted to be working with Simon Keller and colleagues on this very important and interesting study, which will complement our own studies into drug resistance in epilepsy, using analysis of electroencephalography (EEG). The GM Regional Epilepsy Service has a great track record of recruiting patients into important research studies and we will be recruiting patients who are newly diagnosed with epilepsy from our clinics. They will have advanced MRI scanning, EEG recording and neuropsychology analysis at the University of Liverpool.”

Salford Royal is one of two NHS sites to recruit patients to the study, which aims to analyse information from 107 patients with newly diagnosed epilepsy and 48 healthy controls. Patients will be followed up every six months for two years to assess treatment outcomes.