Epilepsy Research

Basic Science Research

The overall goal of our research program is to elucidate basic mechanisms through which a normal brain becomes "epileptic" and to develop novel treatment options for patients suffering with epilepsy. Current research projects include:

• Electrophysiological investigations of the function of dysplastic neurons (in animal models and in tissue obtained following resective surgery) to determine cellular mechanisms of epileptogenesis

• Evaluation of non-synaptic mechanisms to control seizures and in vitro studies of human epileptogenesis

• Development of stem cell therapies for enhancement of synaptic inhibition

• Identification of new therapeutic targets using forward-genetic screening in zebrafish

Basic science research in the department is funded by several outside agencies including the NIH, Tuberous Sclerosis Alliance and Epilepsy Foundation of America.
Find out more about basic science epilepsy research at the Department of Neurological Surgery ►


Clinical Research

Clinical Trials for Epilepsy
The UCSF Epilepsy Center is involved in several major clinical trials testing new therapies, including:

• Radiosurgery or Open Surgery for Epilepsy (ROSE) Trial: A phase III study of Gamma Knife® radiosurgery for mesial temporal sclerosis*

• SANTE (Stimulation of the Anterior Nucleus of the Thalamus for Epilepsy) Trial: this study uses deep brain stimulation to treat medically refractory epilepsy

• A phase II placebo-controlled add-on study of brivaracetam for partial seizures

• A multi-center trial of progesterone therapy for women with epilepsy: this NIH-funded study is examining whether using progesterone as an adjunctive therapy is effective for women with medically refractory, localization-related epilepsy

*Adult patients with medically refractory temporal lobe seizures may be candidates for an on-going NIH-sponsored clinical study to determine the efficacy of Gamma-Knife® radiosurgery. This procedure may provide a viable non-invasive alternative to surgery and UCSF is one of the leading research institutions in this field. To enroll or find out more information, call (415) 353-2241

Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project
UCSF is the coordinating center for the national Epilepsy Phenome/Genome Project, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, which is aimed at collecting detailed phenotypic and genomic information on patients with idiopathic generalized epilepsy, localization- related epilepsy, infantile spasms, Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome, and certain types of malformations of cortical development. This information will help to identify multigenic determinants of the underlying epilepsy syndrome and pharmacoresponsiveness or pharmacoresistance.


High-field Neuroimaging of Epilepsy
In this study, a 4T MRI scanner is being used to image epileptogenic brain regions in patients with mesial temporal sclerosis or non-lesional epilepsy.


Functional Brain Mapping
Several ongoing studies at the UCSF Epilepsy Center are focused on functional brain mapping, including:

• Non-invasive mapping of language cortex using magnetoencephalography (MEG)

• Validation of pediatric functional MRI (fMRI) paradigms for clinical use

• Mapping functional cortical activity using ECOG recordings that reveal evoked spectral changes in brainwaves


Social and Emotional Functioning
Neuropsychology is an important aspect of treatment for epilepsy and current studies are aimed at:

• Examining social cognition in people with intractable epilepsy before and after resective surgery

• Exploring potential emotional deficits in patients with mesial temporal sclerosis using pyschophysiological responses to emotionally loaded visual stimuli