Epilepsy Center | Research and Innovation

Our epilepsy specialists are constantly looking for more effective ways to treat seizures in children. They are also working to make existing treatments safer.

Our clinical epileptologists and researchers work together so that discoveries from the laboratory quickly become new treatments. We typically have several clinical trials going on at any time. Our doctors are currently:

  • searching for and testing new anti-seizure medications
  • evaluating new imaging techniques to help surgeons avoid functional brain tissue during surgery
  • developing and using new tools for diagnosis and therapy

Boston Children's Epilepsy Genetics Program

Founded in 2011, our Epilepsy Genetics Program provides comprehensive clinical services, including genetic evaluation and counseling, and engages in prolific research to help children and families with known or suspected genetic epilepsy syndromes.

Current epilepsy research and innovation projects

Fast brain waves: A better biomarker for epilepsy

Some forms of epilepsy can’t be treated with drugs and will eventually need surgery. To improve surgical outcomes, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital are developing new techniques to detect the brain’s “epileptogenic zone” using non-invasive techniques like scalp EEG and MEG. They have homed in on a newly-established biomarker for epilepsy — fast brain waves called high-frequency oscillations (HFOs) — that indicate which area of the brain is inducing seizures.

An eye on epilepsy: The work, life and innovations of Tobias Loddenkemper, MD

Meet Tobias Loddenkemper, MD, director of clinical epilepsy research at Boston Children's. A seizure 'whisperer,' he's working to understand children's seizure patterns, create a seizure 'alarm' to prevent sudden deaths and improve treatment of status epilepticus.

Brain stimulation for status epilepticus?

Status epilepticus, a state of prolonged seizures, is a life-threatening medical emergency. Boston Children's neurologist, Alexander Rotenberg, MD, is the first to test an emerging approach known as transcranial direct-current stimulation (tDCS) as a way of halting acute seizures. Learn how tDCS could prevent new seizures from starting, if the findings hold true in people.

Health claims data: Taking a 30,000-foot view on disease associations

Using insurance claims data, researchers at Boston Children’s found a strong association: patients with an autoimmune disease had a nearly four-fold increase in their risk of developing epilepsy.

Tracking what happens between clinic visits: Will it improve care?

A web-based tracking system that helps doctors make informed decision at follow-up visits is expanding to many outpatient clinics at Boston Children’s, including epilepsy.

Magnetic brain stimulation advances to clinical trial for epilepsy

Alex Rotenberg, MD, PhD,  a neurologist in Boston Children’s Epilepsy Center, has been having success with an experimental technique for treatment-resistant epilepsy. Known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), it has helped a small number of patients with no other good options for controlling their seizures.

Seizure detection: It’s all in the wrist

Tobias Loddenkemper, MD, a neurologist in the Epilepsy Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, wanted to better understand his patients’ seizure patterns so he could better time the dosing of their medications. He’s been testing a wristband sensor system, developed by Rosalind Picard, ScD, and colleagues at the MIT Media Lab (Epilepsia, March 20), and thinks it could be part of the solution.

When a child loses milestones, consider sleep EEG studies

Tobias Loddenkemper, MD, a neurologist in the Epilepsy Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, suspected that some children with developmental delay have seizure-like activity in the brain at night. These spikes of electrical activity, referred to medically as sleep-potentiated epileptiform activity, can be readily and inexpensively detected by electroencephalography, or EEG, and readily treated with nighttime anti-seizure drugs.

Immune cells “sculpt” brain circuits — by eating excess connections

Developmental brain disorders such as autism, epilepsy or schizophrenia are increasingly seen as disorders of synapse development, and some data suggest that microglia and/or the complement cascade are involved.

Touching a nerve in epilepsy: Genetic studies find obscure causes

Ann Poduri, MD, the director of the Epilepsy Genetics Program at Boston Children’s, investigates a variety of epilepsy conditions to understand their genetic underpinnings.

Delivering a baby MEG

Imagine being able to record, in real time, the neural activity in a newborn’s brain and to overlay that information directly onto an MRI scan. When an abnormal electrical discharge triggered a seizure, you’d be able to see exactly where in the brain it originated. For years, that kind of thinking has been the domain of dreams. Boston Children’s Hospital’s Ellen Grant, MD, and Yoshio Okada, PhD, are debuting a new magnetoencephalography (MEG) system designed to turn those dreams into reality.

Brain stimulation advances toward application in pediatrics

In recent years, electrical devices stimulating the brain or peripheral nerves have emerged as clinical and scientific tools in neurology and psychiatry. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration has approved three tools at this writing: a device for treatment of epileptic seizures via electrodes implanted beneath the skull; a device for shortening migraine headache via transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the brain; and a transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) device for migraine prevention.

Epilepsy surgery: When it’s not good to wait

About a third of children with epilepsy do not get better with drug treatment. Many physicians are inclined to try additional drugs to control the seizures—and there are many to choose from. However, analysis of data from tens of thousands of patients suggests that if two or more well-chosen drugs have failed, and surgery is a safe option, there’s no benefit in holding off.

Deep sequencing” finds hidden causes of brain disorders

So-called somatic mutations—affecting just a percentage of cells—are subtle and easy to overlook, even with next-generation genomic sequencing. And they could be more important in neurologic and psychiatric disorders than we thought.

3D printing puts patients in surgeons’ hands. Literally.

Peter Weinstock, MD, PhD, and Boston Children’s Simulator Program. are putting a child’s internal anatomy in surgeons’ hands before going near an operating room.

Seizure monitoring: Looking between the seizures

Researchers at Boston Children’s have developed a computational technique that can infer the source of a patient’s seizures without invasive monitoring.

Brain structural imaging: Gleaning more with math

Researchers detail a technical breakthrough: a standardized mathematical framework that is able to glean more information from a scan that could shed further light on brain abnormalities and can potentially be used by any research center.