Peter Klein, B.S. Neuroscience, Bates College
Epilepsy is a very common disorder, affecting nearly 70 million people globally. Absence seizures, defined by recurrent impairments of consciousness and 3 Hz spike-wave discharges seen in EEG recordings, occur in 10% of epilepsy patients and are associated with cognitive and linguistic deficits. Absence seizures occur when the thalamus is overly active. This is caused by back and forth reciprocal pattern of activity between thalamocortical and reticular thalamic clusters of neurons. Normally all of this activity is deliberately not very synchronized, but when all of these neurons fire at the same time an absence seizure is generated. In the Beenhakker lab, I will be studying the mechanisms that keep this activity desynchronized and how the pattern of firing transitions from normal activity, to producing a seizure. I will be doing high-speed calcium imaging to study these patterns of activity. Knowing the way in which activity in the thalamus produces seizures could help with the development of better drugs to treat absence epilepsy.