UCL News


UCL in the News: MRI hope for epilepsy sufferers

21 August 2007

Epilepsy sufferers who do not respond to drugs have been given new hope by a team of researchers.

Experts have been honing their techniques to analyse MRI scans with the aim of identifying which part of a patient's brain is causing fits.

Until now, around one in four brain scans of epileptic patients not responding to drugs mistakenly gives the "all clear".

But Professor John Duncan and his team have been reprogramming scanners and finding new ways to analyse images with the aim of finding out more about these people's brains.

The hope is that hundreds more patients will be able to undergo surgery to remove the part of their brain that causes their seizures.

Professor Duncan, who is medical director of the National Society for Epilepsy and works at University College London, said one of the new techniques involved watching how water moves around the brain.

Another involves examining how water "sticks" to proteins in the brain, which can show up areas of abnormality not revealed in normal scans.

The new methods have detected abnormalities in the brain in 29% of patients whose brains appeared normal using conventional MRI scanning.

The team has also looked at changes in the brain immediately following an epileptic episode to see whether it causes any damage.

Prof Duncan said his team was now spreading its knowledge across the UK through talks and conferences and by publishing papers in medical journals.

Channel 4 News