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The Epileptic Brain

After Alzheimer's disease and stroke, epilepsy is the third most common  neurological disease.

It's also one of the more difficult to treat: Anticonvulsant drugs are effective for only 70 percent of those with the condition albeit with many unwanted side effects. Treatment options for the other 30 percent range from few to none.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health, David Mott, Ph.D., is studying the role of the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate in epilepsy. Glutamate is used by 75 percent of all brain cells to communicate with each other. Mott is using a specialized virus to target certain glutamate receptors—called kainate receptors—that appear to play a role in the development of seizures.

In models, Mott is focusing on the hippocampus, the part of the brain that  governs learning and memory and is the most common site of seizure activity.

We're still several years away from a human trial, but we've developed a modified virus that does what it's supposed to do in the models. We're hopeful that targeting these receptors will stop seizures," Mott said.

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