People with epilepsy often live with other conditions such as depression, memory or sleep problems, headaches, learning or behavioural problems. Treatments may interfere with the management of co-existing conditions, particularly the management of epilepsy in pregnancy. Many antiepileptic drugs may cause birth defects and/or developmental problems (such as learning difficulties, ADHD or Autism).
The aim of our Epilepsy Research Group led by Consultant Neurologist Dr Athanasios Gaitatzis is to understand the factors that affect the clinical expression of epilepsy and its response to treatment. The team also aim to identify biomarkers and develop personalised treatments for epilepsy and ultimately improve patients’ quality of life.
The interaction between epilepsy and the gut microbiome
Our epilepsy research areas include investigating if the composition of bacteria and other micro-organisms that live in the gut is substantially different in people with epilepsy on antiepileptic drugs compared to healthy patients, further exploring cognitive and mood difficulties that are not only known to co-exist with epilepsy but have been associated with the health of the gut microbiome. This is the first-ever study of this kind in Australia. The group have set up a biobank and developed testing kits in the lab. This will be an important step that will help our understanding of gut-brain communication and its effects in the health of people with epilepsy.
Types of cognitive dysfunction and depression in epilepsy
Associated with cognitive and mood difficulties, Perron Institute’s Epilepsy Research Group are also mapping how depression and memory problems present in people with epilepsy and assessing their impact on the management of epilepsy. This will lead to better recognition of depression and cognitive problems by clinicians, earlier diagnosis and intervention.
Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Epilepsy (SUDEP)
The group are also participating in the EpiNet Sudden Unexpected Deaths in Epilepsy (SUDEP) Study, a case-control study collecting information regarding epilepsy and lifestyle issues from patients who die from SUDEP and matched controls.