Robert Yaffe, a predoctoral student and member of the Sarma lab, has been awarded a Pre-Doctoral Research Training Fellowship by the Epilepsy Foundation. The Fellowship supports predoctoral students with dissertation research related to epilepsy, thus strengthening their interest in establishing epilepsy research as a career direction. The title for Robert's proposed project is "Development of a Tool for Seizure Foci Localization".
For patients with epilepsy that do not respond to pharmaceutical treatments, the last resort treatment option is a surgical procedure in which the epileptogenic zone (EZ) – the region of the brain that is believed to be the source of the seizures - is removed. First, electrodes are implanted onto the surface of the brain or inserted deep into the brain. This is done to record the electrical activity of the brain while a patient has seizures, so that the exact source of the seizures can be determined. Once the EZ is determined, this area can be surgically resected. Only about 50% of the patients who have this procedure remain seizure-free in the long term. One of the main reasons why this procedure fails is misidentification of the EZ. Currently, trained epileptologists visually inspect hours of electrical recordings without the assistance of any computational tools. In this project, a computational tool will be developed to accurately identify the region of the brain that is responsible for generating seizures in patients with epilepsy. This will greatly improve the effectiveness of surgical resections and decrease the amount of time needed for the pre-surgical evaluation.
Congratulations Robert, and good luck with your research!