Research & Innovation | Overview
Our specialists are constantly looking for more effective ways to treat epilepsy and seizures in children. They’re also working to make existing treatments safer.
Our clinical epileptologists and researchers work together so that discoveries from the laboratory quickly become new treatments. We typically have several clinical trials going on at any time. Current studies include:
- searching for and testing new anti-seizure medications
- evaluating new imaging techniques to help surgeons avoid functional brain tissue during surgery
- developing and using new tools for diagnosis and therapy, including noninvasive brain stimulation and seizure-detecting wristbands
Boston Children's Epilepsy Genetics Program
Founded in 2011, our Epilepsy Genetics Program provides comprehensive clinical services, including genetic evaluation and counseling, and takes part in research to help children and families with known or suspected genetic epilepsy syndromes.
Not all genetic mutations that cause epilepsy show up on blood tests because some occur only in brain tissue; this is especially true in children with focal epilepsy. Ann Poduri, MD, MPH, and her colleagues are identifying these hard-to-find mutations — even some affecting just a fraction of the brain cells — to provide answers for more families.
Innovations in epilepsy surgery
Fast brain waves: A better biomarker for epilepsy
Some forms of epilepsy can’t be treated with medication and will eventually need surgery. To improve surgical outcomes, researchers at Boston Children’s are developing new techniques to detect the brain’s “epileptogenic zone” using noninvasive techniques like High-density scalp (HD) EEG and MEG. They have homed in on a newly-established biomarker for epilepsy — fast brain waves called high-frequency oscillations (HFOs) — that indicate which area of the brain is inducing seizures.
Epilepsy surgery: When it’s not good to wait
About a third of children with epilepsy do not get better with drug treatment. Many physicians are inclined to try additional drugs to control the seizures — and there are many to choose from. Researchers from our Epilepsy Center analyzed data from tens of thousands of patients that suggests if two or more well-chosen drugs have failed, and surgery is a safe option, there’s no benefit in holding off.
Robot-enhanced neurosurgery for nimbler seizure mapping
Physicians have traditionally performed invasive seizure monitoring to identify the area of the brain from which seizures originate. This approach involves surgically opening the skull and placing a grid of electrodes on the surface of the brain. Increasingly, Boston Children’s neurosurgeons are relying on stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG), a procedure in which electrodes are instead fed on tiny wires through trajectories drilled into the skull. These electrodes can reach deeper into a child’s brain and present a better opportunity for clinicians to determine the source of seizure activity.
Noninvasive treatment for seizures (neuromodulation)
Boston Children’s is a leader in the field of neuromodulation, which involves using electrical or magnetic stimulation to reduce or adjust activity in the brain or nervous system. In particular, the Epilepsy Center has extensive expertise in two cutting-edge neuromodulation techniques: Responsive Neurostimulation (RNS) and Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). RNS involves the use of a small, implanted device that monitors brain activity and delivers targeted electrical stimulation to prevent seizures in patients with epilepsy. DBS involves implanting electrodes deep in the brain to regulate neural activity and alleviate symptoms of epilepsy, movement disorders, and other conditions.