First Published: Investigator - April 2005
Epilepsy is a common neurological disorder which affects 1-2% of Australians. It is a disruption of brain function resulting in recurrent seizures or convulsions.
The processes leading to spontaneous convulsions in epilepsy are not yet known but, thanks to a generous bequest, the Epilepsy Research Group at Flinders has been working toward finding out exactly which electrical brain rhythms are disturbed and what mechanisms lead to epileptic convulsions.
The research involves measuring the brain's electrical rhythms (EEG) to find out which rhythms might be disturbed in people prone to epileptic disorders and determine whether these rhythms can disrupt the brain to cause attacks.
Tests were able to show that just before convulsions take place, the type of brain rhythm which is normally active when humans think became very much more powerful. Furthermore, studies also showed that some epileptic brain rhythms have surprising similarities with normal brain rhythms seen during sleep.
In addition to developing a better diagnostic test for people with epilepsy, Professor Willoughby is hopeful that the findings may enable individuals, with some forms of epilepsy, to test themselves for their immediate risk of seizure allowing at least some individuals to adjust their day’s plans.