Discovering the link between epilepsy and language – Innovita Research

Researchers from the Mater Hospital Advanced Epilepsy Unit in collaboration with the University of Queensland and Queensland University of Technology are embarking on a joint study to investigate the link between epilepsy and language.

Dr Lisa Gillinder and Professor Katie McMahon. Image credit: Mater Hospital Advanced Epilepsy Unit

Epilepsy affects more than 250,000 Australians with the majority managed on medication, however, one third of people will be resistant to this treatment and may require surgery.

Neurologist Dr Lisa Gillinder prepares patients for surgery at the Mater Hospital Centre for Neurosciences and says they are required to undergo testing before such major surgery.

“Patients will undergo an MRI scan to plan for the safe removal of the brain tissue causing seizures, this allows us to reduce the risk of damaging other areas of the brain responsible for everything from speech, movement, vision and function,” Dr Gillinder said.

“Some patients may be expecting epilepsy in the region of the brain responsible for speech and language and following surgery may have difficulties regaining normal speaking function.

“Through our research we will look at people who do and don’t have epilepsy to better understand areas of brain responsible for speech, this will inform our approach to surgery and we can minimise risk for the patients.”

Deputy Director of Herston Imaging Research Facility and QUT Professor Katie McMahon believes patients with epilepsy already have different function in the speech region of the brain due to the impact of their ongoing seizures, she is interested to test this theory against people who have never had a seizure.

“Our understanding of the impact that ongoing seizures have on the brain and language is limited, as researchers we want to investigate this further,” Professor McMahon said.

“We are also hoping to identify how MRI can be best used to assess language function in people with epilepsy when planning for surgery.

“This research could result in improved treatment for people with epilepsy, and lead to clearer
information about the risks and benefits of surgery for people with epilepsy and their families.”

The research team are also hopeful this data collected could lead to improved treatment for people with other conditions that affect similar regions of the brain for example stroke, dementia and brain tumours.

Participants will be asked to attend two MRI scanning sessions at the Herston Imaging Research Facility at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital approximately three months apart. Each session will take approximately 60 minutes.

Story source: DOI:10.1016/j.eplepsyres.2021.106708