Epilepsy is a family of disorders characterized by the occurrence of spontaneous, unpredictable seizures. Seizures interfere with daily life, can be dangerous (while driving or if they cause a fall, for example) and can lead to death of some brain cells.
Epilepsy affects more than 2 million individuals of all ages in the United States and at least 50 million worldwide. While much information is available about the abnormal excitatory and inhibitory communication of neuronal networks in epilepsy, the basic mechanisms involving both genetic and acquired elements are not fully understood.
Stated simply, we cannot predict who will get epilepsy or the timing of individual seizures; we cannot prevent the disorder and we can only rarely cure some cases.
The complexity of epilepsy requires that we study it using many approaches. First, in order to understand the abnormal function of some brain cells in epilepsy, we need to understand the normal function and means of communication of neurons. Second, in order to prevent seizures, we need to understand the changes in brain cells (and in their communication with one another), which predispose or lead to seizures.
We also need a better understanding of how some gene alterations or acquired events (trauma, long febrile seizures) might promote epilepsy. Finally, we need to visualize the changes that seizures and epilepsies cause to the brain.
Better understanding of these issues should ultimately help us create effective cures for this family of disorders.
The EpiCenter mission
- Highlight basic, translational and clinical research in epilepsy at UC Irvine, achieving recognition as one of the premier epilepsy-focused research centers nationally and internationally
- Provide a central site for current and prospective students and faculty who wish to engage in epilepsy-related research fields at UC Irvine laboratories
- Facilitate multidisciplinary interactions and programs and provide avenues for collaboration with biotechnology
- Make significant contributions to the understanding of the epilepsies, ultimately leading to their prevention and cure
Research at the EpiCenter
The center is located on the main UC Irvine Health Sciences campus in Irvine. Participating laboratories occupy several modern buildings with an array of core facilities. The EpiCenter comprises researchers, scientists and physicians who use a diverse array of scientific approaches to study the mechanisms and consequences of epilepsy.
Center faculty members belong to several participating departments at UC Irvine, as well as at UCLA and UC Riverside. They engage in basic and disease-oriented research in neuroscience, genetics, imaging and modeling/computational approaches.
The EpiCenter is directed by an executive committee chaired by Tallie Z. Baram and includes professors Christine M. Gall, Alan L. Goldin, Ivan Soltesz, Geoffrey Abbott, Robert Hunt, and John H. Weiss. Administrative support is provided by the Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology.