Epilepsy Research & Education
The Pediatric Epilepsy Program, as a unit within the Pediatric Neurology Division, is active in physician education and training, including medical students from our medical school affiliates, or students on elective from other medical schools throughout the country. We train resident physicians in pediatrics, neurology, pediatric neurology, and neurosurgery.
The pediatric epilepsy faculty is active with community education, including speaking to practicing physicians and patient groups.
Research efforts within the Pediatric Epilepsy group focus on direct improvements in patient care, including anti-seizure drug development. We participate in many of the national multi-center studies that research the safety and effectiveness of new medications that have not yet been approved by the FDA, and the impact of anti-seizure medications on learning and behavior.
We are also active with patient outcome research following surgical treatment. This includes evaluating the impact of surgery on seizure frequency, neuropsychological functioning, and quality of life (QOL).
Brain imaging is a strength of the program, and our pediatric epilepsy faculty work in collaboration with our neuroradiology colleagues to use and develop innovative imaging techniques such as functional MRI (fMRI), positron emission tomography (PET), diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), and voxel-based morphometry (VBM).
The Epilepsy Program has also partnered with Arizona State University to measure knowledge about epilepsy among schoolteachers, as well as their confidence levels as they teach students with epilepsy.
Children with epilepsy may need special attention in school, or may present challenges to teachers, because of issues such as:
- attention problems
- missed school days
- social problems with peers
Researchers hope to use the information from the study to develop ways to enhance teachers' knowledge about epilepsy, and to bolster their confidence in reaching out to children who have seizures.
Members of the pediatric epilepsy group are also active with laboratory research.
The Hypothalamic Hamartoma (HH) Tissue Research Laboratory (Principal Investigator John F. Kerrigan, MD) at Phoenix Children's focuses on the study of surgically-resected HH with the aim of understanding the basic cellular mechanisms responsible for seizure activity arising from this human epileptic tissue. HH are congenital, benign tumors located in the ventral hypothalamus, and are responsible for treatment-resistant epilepsy and other related neurobehavioral symptoms. Our lab utilizes traditional neuroanatomical techniques to study HH, including immunohistochemistry, stereology, Golgi staining, and confocal imaging of micro-injected neurons. We work in collaboration with other research laboratories at Barrow and elsewhere that utilize complementary research platforms, including cellular electrophysiology.
This laboratory, supported in part by a three-year grant from the Arizona Biomedical Research Commission, includes training opportunities for students and post-doctoral research fellows.
The National Institute of Health Childhood Absence Epilepsy study is the the largest, controlled US study of head-to-head comparison of anticonvulsant treatment for a particular epilepsy syndrome. The findings have changed management of this particular type of epilepsy and the continuation phase continues to provide information about long-term outcome, psychiatric and learning comorbidities associated with the epilepsy and medications used to treat it. This study has been possible through the financial support of the federal government, collaboration between multiple clinical sites, and the willingness of hundreds of patients and their families to participate