Research & Innovation
Our epilepsy specialists are constantly looking for more effective treatments to relieve children of their seizures. We are also working to make existing treatments safer.
Our clinical epileptologists and basic researchers work together so discoveries from the laboratory quickly become new treatments. We typically have several clinical trials going on at any time. Our doctors are:
- searching for and testing new anti-seizure drugs
- evaluating new techniques that help surgeons avoid damaging functional brain tissue
- developing and using new methods for diagnosing and treating epilepsy
Making surgery safer and more effective
Children’s is conducting a number of different studies to make epilepsy surgeries as effective as possible without damaging important parts of the brain.
We are developing new strategies to identify functional brain tissue—the parts that surgeons don’t want to damage during surgery—in order to make surgery safer and increase the number of patients who are candidates for surgery. Often, in order to identify the functional brain tissue, we look at what parts of the brain are active when your child performs different tasks. But for our very youngest patients, this can be impossible. In response, Joseph Madsen, MD, Children's director of epilepsy surgery, recently performed a study using an imaging technique called non-task functional MRI to find functional brain tissue in young children.
Any time a child comes to the hospital for long-term monitoring, a wealth of data is collected so that we can determine the best treatment plan for him. But much of that data can be used to help future patients through research, too. Dr. Madsen and others are using the data to map functional areas of the brain, which could improve the accuracy and safety of epilepsy surgery. You may be interested to read about how one of our patients contributed to this sort of research. The research is also described in more detail in this article.
In addition to finding functional brain areas, we are developing tools that help us more precisely pinpoint the location of epileptic tissue. In some cases, rather than monitoring the brain’s activity from the outside, surgeons place electrodes inside the skull. To improve that procedure, Madsen recently developed a new type of “intracranial” electrode that is both less invasive and more accurate than existing ones.
New techniques for managing children’s seizures
Children's neurologist Alexander Rotenberg, MD, and his colleagues are investigating a new approach to seizure treatment called transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). TMS involves stimulating a child’s brain with short bursts of electrical energy generated by a magnetic field; the treatments are painless and noninvasive. For some children, the technique seems to have stopped their seizures completely.
Dr. Rotenberg is now launching a clinical trial of a special TMS device for children with treatment-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy. Learn more.
Working to help children who have epilepsy and ADHD
Children with epilepsy are more likely than others to be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Children's psychiatrist and chief of our Psychopharmacology Clinic, Joseph Gonzalez-Heydrich, MD, is studying the effectiveness of a long-acting attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication for children who have both epilepsy and ADHD.