Imaging Sciences Associate Professor Alan McMillan, PhD and Neuroradiology Associate Professor Vivek Prabhakaran, MD, PhD were awarded a four-year epilepsy-dementia R01 connectome grant. The grant is for a collaborative project between the UW Departments of Radiology, Neurology, Psychiatry, Medical Physics, and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.
Epilepsy affects more than two million Americans and is the fourth most common neurological disorder. The team’s research focuses on chronic temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) and whether TLE and its comorbidities lead to premature brain and cognitive aging. They are also testing whether chronic TLE neuroimaging biomarkers are associated with cognitive abnormalities, and with risk and protective factors influencing the accelerated aging process.
The project is collaborative in nature and includes a team of specialists from multiple UW departments. “This is quite interdisciplinary research. We have experts in imaging physics, artificial intelligence, clinical imaging, clinical neurology, as well as experts in studying Alzheimer’s disease. All of these people are needed to create and execute the project, since these are all key ingredients to what we hope to undertake,” says Dr. McMillan.
In addition to being highly interdisciplinary, the project utilizes state-of-the-art imaging tools to obtain the best data. “Our project will take advantage of some of the most advanced technology in terms of using a combined PET-MR scanner to collect simultaneous PET and connectome quality MRI data. This will allow us to better capture the pathophysiological changes that occur with the epilepsy brain,” Dr. Prabhakaran adds.
The entire research team is excited about the grant and the opportunity it presents for them to further their research and improve patient’s lives. “Ultimately, we want to better understand the reasons for early cognitive decline in people with epilepsy. If we can understand the mechanisms, we will be able to propose modifications to treatments and patient lifestyle to improve the overall health of their brain,” says Dr. McMillan.