International Epilepsy Day | February 13

[text by Diana Cunha-Reis Principal Investigator at the Epilepsy & Aging Lab,  from the Gene Expression & Regulation Research Group at BioISI ]

Today, in the International Epilepsy Day, people around the world are gathered in the common goal of raising awareness towards epilepsy. 

The Epilepsy & Aging Lab  is focused on research in mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE). This is a form of epilepsy that is mostly not inherited but in turn resulting from a multitude of previous brain injuries. These originate profuse limbic damage and recurrent seizures originating in the hippocampus. Ultimately, this leads to cognitive decline and due to the low rate of success of antiepileptic therapy in this type of epilepsy, brain surgery is often the only available treatment, having still devastating consequences to the patients. Therefore, our group’s research is developed across two different research lines i)  epileptogenesis prevention (the process during which changes occur in the brain after a precipitating injury or insult that results in the development of spontaneous recurrent seizure activity or epilepsy) and ii) mitigate cognitive decline.

In the first strategy, we aim to answer the question: How is altered synaptic physiology early after triggering events contributing to the first steps of epileptogenesis?By using epileptic animals or by mimicking seizures and hypoxic-ischemic events in brain tissue in vitro we can focus on synapses (the main cellular structures responsible for communication between neurons) to understand how they contribute to the early stages of disease with the purpose of finding new strategies to prevent epileptogenesis.

In turn, in the second research line, the question that guides us is Can cognitive training programs based on repeated novelty exposure rescue cognitive deficits in MTLE? Regarding this one, Epileptic animals are used as they can serve as a preclinical model to test cognitive training approaches to mitigate cognitive decline and promote synaptic recovery in MTLE. 

Diana Cunha-Reis [photo provided by the researcher]

Find out more about Epilepsy and Aging Lab here.

More on the International Epilepsy Day here.