Research indicates that people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) are at risk of developing epilepsy. However, it is not clear why some develop epilepsy and others do not. Dr. Jorge Burneo and his colleagues hope to shed some light on this question. Their study involves two parts: The first part looks back at the medical records of people with traumatic brain injuries to try and identify common characteristics among those who developed epilepsy. The second part involves taking detailed images of the patients’ brain within two weeks of their injury. Images will continue to be collected every year for the next 4 years to see how the brain’s structure changes over time, which may help to identify brain changes that distinguish patients who develop epilepsy from those who do not.

Dr. Burneo and his team are looking for patients with a medical diagnosis of epilepsy, meaning that they have had two or more unprovoked seizures at least 24 hours apart. Several brain imaging techniques will be used to examine how the brain is structured, how different regions are connected, and what biochemical changes (how brain cells communicate) occur within different brain areas. In addition, they will look to see if changes in the brain relate to the development of uncontrolled seizures (seizures that cannot be controlled by medication).

The researchers are hopeful that they will be able to identify factors that may predict who is more likely to develop epilepsy, such as the severity of the brain injury, or a previous family history of epilepsy. The team also hopes to study how co-existing conditions, such as anxiety or depression, might contribute to the development of uncontrolled seizures.

Enrollment for the study has begun and more than 20 eligible patients have been identified so far. The team hopes to complete their reviews of the patients’ medical records and have all data analyzed by the end of 2017. The findings from this study will be shared widely to help increase awareness of the link between TBI and epilepsy.

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