Can we soon predict who will develop epilepsy?

(15-12-2021) Emma Christiaen, through her doctoral research, sought to help find a biomarker to predict which patients will develop epilepsy after an initial precipitating injury.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by repeated epileptic seizures. Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), the most common type of epilepsy, is often caused by an initial precipitating injury, such as status epilepticus, stroke, brain trauma, or a brain tumor.

Currently, it is not yet possible to predict which patients will develop epilepsy after such an injury and which patients will not, mainly because little is known about how normal brains are transformed into epileptic brains, a process called epileptogenesis. More and more evidence suggests that aberrant structural and functional brain networks play a role in epilepsy.

"The objective of my dissertation was to gain more insight into the mechanisms of epileptogenesis, with the ultimate goal of finding a biomarker to predict which patients will develop epilepsy after an initial precipitating injury," Emma explains.

To this end, changes in network connectivity during epileptogenesis were examined in a rat model of TLE (temporal lobe epilepsy) using advanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). First, changes in white matter structures and structural network topology were examined with diffusion-weighted MRI.

Then, their influence on functional network topology was assessed with resting-state functional MRI. The link between network topology and seizure frequency was also investigated. Finally, dynamic changes in functional network topology were also examined.

"My research brings predicting who will develop epilepsy after a precipitating injury one step closer," Emma concludes.

Read the entire PhD

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PhD Title: Longitudinal Structural and Functional Brain Network Changes during Epileptogenesis in a Rat Model of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy

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Contact: Emma Christiaen, Robrecht Raedt, Christian Vanhove

Emma Christiaen

Emma Christiaen, born in Bruges on March 6, 1993, started a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering at Ghent University in 2011. In July 2016, she obtained her Master’s degree in Biomedical engineering with great distinction.

In October of that year, Emma started working as a PhD student on a joint research project at the MEDISIP (Medical Image and Signal Processing) research group within the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture, and the 4BRAIN research group, formerly known as LCEN3, within the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences.

In December 2017, she obtained a grant for strategic basic research at the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) and under the supervision of her supervisors, Prof. Dr. Chris Vanhove and Prof. Dr. Robrecht Raedt, she investigated changes in structural and functional brain networks during the development of epilepsy.

Emma is first author of 3 publications and co-author of 2 publications in international scientific journals. In addition, she presented her work at national and international conferences through 4 oral presentations and 21 poster presentations.

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Editor: Jeroen Ongenae - Final editing: Ilse Vercruysse - Illustrator: Roger Van Hecke