If it has not been possible to control epileptic seizures using medications, surgery can be a highly effective treatment (Wiebe et al., 2001) and reduce seizures in up to 70% of patients. Surgery will only be undertaken if any possible risks are known and judged acceptable by the patient. My research focuses on improving our ability to understand these risks.
The focus of my current work is on how we can best identify the brain's language areas to help avoid these in neurosurgery. Our recent paper focuses on how language fMRI might be used for language localization.
Vision: Mapping the optic radiations
A key goal of surgical planning is the mapping of the visual system's optic radiations. This vital structure is extremely hard to map with MRI due to its circuitous route. Researchers have largely focused on improving MRI acquisition methods to better map the structure. This study showed that a prominent idea in the field, that original work of Meyer in 1908 showed that the radiations include three structures, is incorrect. It also showed that existing methods for finding this structure are highly variable, and showed that a combination of these works more effectively. This work was supported and completed under the guidance of Professor Simon Warfield, PhD.
Memory: The temporal lobe, time and space
A further goal in planning surgical treatment in epilepsy is understanding which brain structures in the temporal lobe support memory, and how well they are functioning. This allows the effects of different forms of surgery to be predicted during planning. The key to this has been seen as understanding which hemisphere’s mesial temporal lobe (MTL) is critical in verbal memory. Curiously, we remain unable to map memory for this purpose using fMRI. In this study we studied which temporal lobe structures are important in encoding the "space" and "time" of experience; for instance, so that you can remember the order of events that occurred over a few minutes, and where everything (people, objects, etc.) where during this time. The results from this functional MRI study provided further evidence that a key function of the temporal lobe is gluing information together for storage in memory, and suggest that different areas in the middle portion of the temporal lobe ("medial temporal lobe") achieve this in different ways.