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UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology

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Prof Matthew Walker

Prof Matthew Walker

Professor of Neurology

Clinical & Experimental Epilepsy

UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology

Joined UCL
1st Apr 2003

Research summary

My laboratory combines in vivo and in vitro neurophysiology in order to address questions concerning the regulation of cortical excitability, mechanisms underlying epileptogenesis (the development of epilepsy) and the treatment and pathology of prolonged seizures (status epilepticus). The aims of the laboratory are to improve the treatment of epilepsy and to identify new strategies for epilepsy treatment. Approximately 30% of people with epilepsy are not adequately controlled by medication and these people have a significant mortality and psychosocial morbidity. Most people with drug resistant epilepsy have acquired focal epilepsy, which can result following a specific brain injury, such as a stroke, brain tumour, head injury or status epilepticus. Status epilepticus is a medical emergency with high morbidity and mortality. It is associated with neuronal damage leading to neurological deficits, and chronic epilepsy. 30-40% of patients are resistant to treatment and require anaesthesia in an intensive care unit. We are investigating the treatment of drug-resistant status epilepticus in animal models, and also the mechanisms underlying the resultant neuronal damage. We are also addressing the question of how cortical excitability is regulated in the healthy brain and how this breaks down during the development of epilepsy. We are using models of status epilepticus after which spontaneous recurrent seizures develop. We have designed a novel EEG monitoring unit, using wireless telemetry in collaboration with Opensource instruments to monitor continuously EEG activity. Using these animals, we are particularly interested in changes in GABAergic inhibition. Using in vitro methods such as whole cell patch clamp and dynamic clamp, we have shed light on a particular form of GABAergic inhibition in which extracellular GABA acts on extrasynaptic GABA(A) receptors, mediating a tonic form of inhibition. We have now determined how this tonic inhibition affects neuronal excitability and the temporal fidelity of neuronal transmission, and how it is altered during the development of epilepsy. Lastly, we are studying novel approaches to the treatment of epilepsy including novel drug development ( in collaboration with Dr Robin Williams, Royal Holloway), focal drug application, and use of viral vectors.

Teaching summary

  • Regular teaching to medical students, junior doctors, neuroscience BSc and neuroscience MSc students.
  • PhD supervision.
  • Co-organiser of short courses on sleep and epilepsy at National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. 

Education

Royal College of Physicians
Doctorate, Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians | 2006
University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 1997
Royal College of Physicians
Doctorate, Member of the Royal College of Physicians | 1992
United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St.. Thomas's Hospitals
Doctorate, Bachelor of Medicine/ Bachelor of Surgery | 1989
University of Cambridge
First Degree, Bachelor of Arts | 1986

Biography

I studied medicine at Cambridge University and London (St. Thomas's Medical School), and trained in Neurology at St Thomas's, Guy's and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery. I was awarded a PhD for a thesis on the treatment of status epilepticus.
I am associate editor of Brain and Therapeutic Advances in Neurological Disorders.
I am President of the British Branch of the International League against Epilepsy, Secretary of the ILAE Commission of European Affairs and Chair of the Trustees of Epilepsy Research UK.

Publications