Epilepsy Foundation Announces Research Grant Winners
August 3, 2011
Epilepsy Foundation Announces Research Grant Winners
Washington, D.C. (August 3, 2011) — The Epilepsy Foundation is pleased to announce the latest grant recipients of its targeted research initiatives and fellowships.
Every year, the Epilepsy Foundation offers grants and fellowships to leading investigators who test new ideas and follow new leads to advance the understanding of epilepsy. These grants fund projects that will lead to better treatment, more effective prevention, and ultimately to a cure for epilepsy.
"Nearly 3 million people in the United States and 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy," said Rich Denness, president & CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation. "Our research programs are designed to draw the best and the brightest scientists from the nation's leading research institutions into the field of epilepsy research. Through research we will solve the medical and scientific puzzle of why epilepsy develops and how it can be treated, prevented, and cured."
Since its inception in 1968, the Epilepsy Foundation has invested more than $44 million in epilepsy research and focused its efforts on supporting visionary epilepsy researchers. The Foundation also invests in targeted research areas and cutting-edge projects that have a high potential for breakthrough results.
In the first half of this year, the Foundation awarded more than $370,000 to the following grant recipients:
Health Sciences Student Fellowships
Judith Katz, B.S., New York University School of Medicine, is the recipient of a grant to conduct a study on an epilepsy neocortical sub-classification system. This study will help researchers and clinicians distinguish between neocortical epilepsy patients with different constellations of commonly assessed features of epilepsy. The study will also evaluate the ability of the classification to predict outcomes.
Ann Kjos, B.B.A., Temple University School of Medicine, is the recipient of a grant to study the use of rufinamide in pediatric epilepsy. One-quarter of children with epilepsy have difficult-to-treat seizures and do not become seizure free with medication. Rufinamide is a medication available in the United States since 2008 for seizures associated with Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome (LGS). This research will evaluate clinical experience of the use of rufinamide and provide further insights into its use in practice.
Marcella Lucas, B.S., Dartmouth College, received a grant for a study that investigates the effect of seizures during the development of the brain and their effect on cognition. Epilepsy in young children is associated with devastating effects on learning and memory. This study will help determine whether environmental enrichment can help improve learning.
Maurine Mayhew, B.S., Cleveland Clinic Foundation, received a grant to study the effects of partial and ongoing sleep deprivation on epileptic seizures. Long-term sleep deprivation has long been recognized as a trigger for epileptic seizures. But the effects of partial sleep deprivation remain to be seen. This project aims to determine if partial sleep deprivation and accumulating sleep debt trigger seizures in people with epilepsy.
Behavioral Sciences Student Fellowships
Marie Chesaniuk, M.A., Columbia University, received a fellowship to study the best practices and challenges in epilepsy patients' medication adherence. Despite the success of medical treatment of epilepsy, many patients do not receive these benefits due to inadequate adherence to medication. This research will measure the effect of information, motivation and behavioral skills on adherence behavior and identify self-regulation strategies and situational cues for medication adherence among individuals with epilepsy.
Angelique Harding, M. Ed., The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, received a fellowship to conduct a study that will help determine the practicality of using a decision-support system during a clinic visit. The system is expected to help the clinician and patient identify important issues that affect epilepsy self-management.
Ying Yuk Sung, M.Phil., University of Wisconsin-Madison, received a fellowship to study the World Health Organization (WHO) International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) framework as an employment model for people with epilepsy. Work is fundamental to the well-being and quality of life of people with or without disabilities and unemployment and underemployment rates are notoriously high among people with epilepsy. This study will evaluate the applicability of this WHO framework for use with people with epilepsy.
Targeted Research Initiative on Cognitive and Psychiatric Aspects of Epilepsy
Jennifer Davis, Ph.D., Rhode Island Hospital, was awarded a grant to study epilepsy and depression. Patients with epilepsy frequently experience depression, which worsens seizure outcomes and quality of life. Research suggests that changes in the brain related to epilepsy may increase a person's risk for depression. This study will examine patients with depression and epilepsy and quantify the brain volume which may provide a biomarker that can improve depression treatments.
Targeted Research Initiative on Morbidity and Mortality
Claus Reinsberger, M.D., Ph.D., Brigham and Women's Hospital, received a grant to study autonomic biomarkers of seizures to assess the risk for Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP). SUDEP poses a poorly understood, but considerable risk to patients with epilepsy. This study will help explain how sympathetic and parasympathetic activity possibly contribute to SUDEP.
Targeted Research Initiative on Severe Symptomatic Epilepsies
Kwee Thio, M.D., Washington University in St. Louis, was awarded a grant to examine the consequences of actinfilin deficiency on neuronal function in infantile spasms. Recent findings suggest that genetic mutations resulting in a deficiency of the protein actinfilin may cause infantile spasms. Infantile spasms constitute a catastrophic epilepsy syndrome that strikes children younger than one year of age. A cure, a preventative therapy, and more effective treatments require a better understanding of the underlying pathophysiology. The identification of genetic mutations will help clarify the responsible mechanisms.
Targeted Research Initiative on Women with Epilepsy
Angela Birnbaum, Ph.D., University of Minnesota, received a grant to examine lamotrigine (LTG) in early pregnancy. LTG concentrations change throughout pregnancy resulting in an increased risk of seizures for pregnant women. Detailed data during the first trimester is required in order to identify the factors (genetic reasons, hormone levels, demographics, etc.) that would indicate lower or higher doses based on a woman's blood level of LTG before conception.
Targeted Research Initiative on Youth with Epilepsy
Christine Baca, M.D., The Regents of the University of California, received a grant to study the risk factors for delayed pediatric resective epilepsy surgery. Young children with intractable epilepsy are at high risk for poor developmental outcomes making early surgical intervention critical. Despite evidence of the benefits of surgery and the need for early intervention, a substantial portion of children fail to receive this care in a timely manner. This study will examine the clinical and psychosocial factors that determine delayed access to care for children with severe medically refractory epilepsy over time.
Heidi Bender, Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine, received a grant to examine multiple determinants of ADHD in pediatric epilepsy. The study will evaluate the combined and unique genetic, environmental, and seizure-related risk factors which may activate attentional disturbance in this population. This project has the potential to improve diagnostic decision-making and optimize treatment practices that may reduce the clinical and financial burden of epilepsy.
Targeted Research Initiative on Health Outcomes
Tobias Loddenkemper, M.D., Children's Hospital Boston, was awarded a grant to study the outcome of status epilepticus in children. Status epilepticus is the most severe and life-threatening form of epilepsy. Information and outcome of pediatric patients with status epilepticus is not collected in a standardized form, and treatment varies between institutions. This study will set up an internet-based database for the most severe form of status epilepticus at eight Children's Hospitals and serve to compare patient treatment and outcomes.
Kitti Kaiboriboon, M.D., Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, received a grant to study the epidemiology of comorbidity and use of necessary care in epilepsy. People with epilepsy often have coexisting illnesses such as depression, hypertension, diabetes, migraine or heart disease. This project evaluates the burden of such coexisting illnesses and examines the use of necessary and preventive care for these conditions in people with epilepsy. This project will provide critical information to clinicians, policy makers and researchers to establish and develop guidelines and target interventions to improve the quality of care for people with epilepsy.
If you would like to schedule an interview with any of these researchers, please contact Kisha James at 301-918-3768.