August 28, 2019

U of Lethbridge Neuroscientist Receives $530K Grant to Study Triggers of Epilepsy

A $530,000 grant from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) will allow a University of Lethbridge neuroscientist to investigate whether seizures can be triggered by memory.

“One of the problems with seizures is that they occur at unpredictable times,” said Dr. Artur Luczak with the U of L’s Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, in a news release from the university. “For example, a seizure can happen when you’re driving or doing some other important activity, so this unpredictability is one of the most difficult aspects of epilepsy.”

Epilepsy and seizures can develop at any age and seizures affect about one per cent of people. More than 65 million people worldwide are affected by epilepsy.

For some people with epilepsy, certain stimuli, such as flickering lights, particular sounds, specific odours or activities, evoke seizures. However, for most people with epilepsy, seizures have no identifiable triggers.

Two years ago Luczak, in collaboration with the U of L’s Dr. Bruce McNaughton and researchers at Stanford University, published a study that found certain neuronal activity in the brains of rats with epilepsy was associated with seizures. This new research will follow up on those results, he says.

“It gave us the idea that maybe recalling a memory of a specific event may create a pattern of brain activity that can trigger a seizure,” said Luczak.

To test this hypothesis in rats, seizures will be induced through electrical stimulation in a very specific location in the environment, such as a particular cage. At the same time, the researchers will be recording the ongoing activity of many neurons in the brain.

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