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23 March 2015

Research highlights those at risk of memory problems after surgery

A new study, based on more than a decade of groundbreaking MRI research carried out by Epilepsy Society, has shown that it is possible to predict who will be at risk of a worsened memory should they have brain surgery for epilepsy.

The more active a part of the brain is, the more blood flow it receives. Functional MRI (fMRI) enables blood flow changes in the brain to be identified, and so to map where brain functions are being carried out.

This study, just published in Neurology, by Professor John Duncan, Clinical Director of the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery,  and his team of researchers from Epilepsy Society,  used functional MRI  (fMRI)  to show that the more a patient used their left temporal lobe to remember words before surgery, the bigger the problem after surgery to this area.

If, however, memory for words was mainly carried out on the right side of the brain, there was a much reduced risk of worsened memory following surgery to the left temporal lobe.

A key area of research

One of Epilepsy Society's key areas of research is to identify critical areas of the brain using structural and functional neuroimaging  to optimise the safety and success of neurosurgery.

It is 20 years since Epilepsy Society installed its first magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner at its Chalfont Centre in Bucks. The scanner, recently upgraded to generate the most advanced images of the brain, played a key part in the research.

Emma's brain surgery

Emma Johnstone had a temporal  lobectomy  six years ago to remove the scarred area of her brain which was causing her seizures.

She said: 'From the moment I woke up from my operation I have been seizure free.  Without my operation I believe I would have been unable to train for the past three years as a nurse, as seizures took up a massive part of my life. I've experienced firsthand how much research has helped improve treatment since I was diagnosed 18 years ago, and how much it can help change the lives of young people like me. With research constantly improving, I believe things can only get better, and more people can hopefully get the specific medical help needed to control their epilepsy.'