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Research Portfolio


Assessing when and why epilepsy treatment fails to work



grant amount:

£298,775 over 48 months, awarded in 2020

lead investigator:

Dr Wessel Woldman


- Professor John Terry (University of Birmingham)


University of Birmingham


Understanding the prognosis of epilepsy is challenging. Clinicians can now record brain data using powerful techniques, and novel treatment options are continually being proposed. This data is complex, which makes mathematical models an ideal tool for developing a new understanding as to whether seizures can be prevented with drugs or other therapies.

"During my previous MRC Skills Development Fellowship, I collaborated with people with epilepsy to co-organize public engagement events which were hugely beneficial to me better understanding lived experience perspectives. One of the main priorities consistently identified was the desire to understand why medication often fails. Similarly, many expert neurologists identify a lack of clinically useful prognostic markers. I’m hopeful that my research will contribute to the early stage development of such markers, which is challenging, but hugely exciting and motivating.

The Study

Dr Woldman will develop mathematical models to further our understanding of how treatment options – medication or surgery – influence brain activity. Using these models, the team will interrogate data recordings from people with juvenile absence epilepsy and other genetic generalised epilepsies who are taking new antiepileptic drugs, and recordings from people with focal epilepsy who have undergone surgery. This will allow Dr Woldman and world-leading collaborators at St Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne to reveal features currently hidden in the data, which could indicate why certain people continue having seizures whilst others become seizure-free.


This research will contribute to the development of robust prognostic markers that could be used to help inform patient management within the next five to ten years and could significantly improve self-management of seizures.