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What happens in the brain just before a seizure starts?


Grant round winners 2007

grant amount:

£74,932 over two years

lead investigator:

John Jefferys, Premysl Jiruska and John Fox



Division of Neuroscience, University of Birmingham


John Jefferys, Premysl Jiruska and John Fox, at the Division of Neuroscience, University of Birmingham, are investigating a characteristic pattern of electrical activity that occurs in brain cells just at the point when normal brain activity changes to seizure activity. How this pattern leads to seizures is not yet known, but understanding it may lead to new drugs which target seizures in their early stages.

This important pattern consists of clumps of very fast spikes of electrical current. Each individual spike is caused by a tiny group of neurones firing together. Collections of these firing groups (called aggregates) generate the whole pattern.

In previous work, funded by the Epilepsy Research Foundation (now Epilepsy Research UK) in 2004, these researchers studied this phenomenon in brain cells with all synapse activity blocked. Synapses are the normal gates for communication between brain cells.

Now in a new project called “Fast network activity and neuronal aggregate formation preceding epileptic seizures: combined in vitro and human study“, costing £74,932 over two years, they will look at the same phenomenon in cells which don’t have this activity blocked (like the normal conditions in the body).

The researchers will try to find out how aggregate firing works in cells which can communicate via their synapses, and how this firing affects the way the synapses work. They’ll then try to understand how both these processes interact to lead to seizures.

They’ll also use sophisticated computer analysis techniques to look at EEG scans from patients with intractable epilepsy, to see if the same patterns are visible there.

This is one of five grants made by the Epilepsy Research Foundation (now Epilepsy Research UK) in 2007. Read about the other grants from 2007 here

The Study