Research Recognition Award will help improve lives of young people with absence epilepsy

The 2019 Epilepsy League Research Recognition Award and prize money of CHF 25,000 is set to benefit young people: Dr. phil. Martina Hubacher is researching “The absent mind – Neurocognition and sleep in young people with absence seizures” at the University Children's Hospital Basel (UKBB). The Prize for Best Dissertation will be split between Basel and Geneva.

Young people with absence epilepsy often face challenges in later life: on average they finish school with lower qualifications, even in comparison with young people who have other generalized epilepsies. Although there have been many studies into this type of epilepsy in children, so far none have investigated the precise causes of such deficits in adolescence.

Dr. Martina Hubacher is changing this status quo with her study at the University Children’s Hospital Basel (UKBB), which the Research Recognition Award and prize money from the Epilepsy League will help her to complete. Hubacher aims to identify and correlate the relevant factors by conducting comprehensive neuropsychological tests and imaging examinations of the young people affected, their healthy siblings and other healthy young people. As the brain regenerates at night during sleep, the study will also look at the quality of sleep experienced by the participants.

We want to create a basis from which to build on so that in the future young people who experience absences can be offered more targeted help and support and have improved chances of success as adults.”

Dr. phil. Martina Hubacher

The awards will be presented at the 11th annual meeting of the Swiss League Against Epilepsy and the German and Austrian epileptology associations (Dreiländertagung), the leading German-language epilepsy congress with an anticipated attendance of over 1000, taking place from 8 to 11 May in Basel.

This year the Epilepsy League Prize for Best Dissertation will be split between two winners. Half the prize money will go to Dr. Laurent Sheybani in Geneva for his dissertation entitled “Large-scale epileptic network in a mouse-model of temporal lobe epilepsy”. For his complex experimental dissertation he researched on a mouse model the key network characteristics in one of the most common types of epilepsy, temporal lobe epilepsy. He was able to show that epileptic activity can be measured in the brain independently of and in addition to the primary focus. Once such a network has established itself, it remains active even after the original focus has been removed.

In the future this work will help achieve even greater accuracy in evaluating the potential success of epilepsy operations.”

President of the Epilepsy League Prof. Dr. Stephan Rüegg of Basel University Hospital

The second half of the prize money goes to Dr. Katharina Gruntz in Basel, who in her doctoral thesis investigated the risk of Parkinson’s patients developing epilepsy. For a long time, medical professionals suspected that having Parkinson’s syndrome “protected” patients from developing epilepsy, but Gruntz’s comprehensive epidemiological analysis showed exactly the opposite – that the risk of epilepsy is actually higher.

“The study is impressive thanks to the clarity of its hypothesis and the statistical approach used for the large number of patients. Why has no-one evaluated this before now?” asked Prof. Dr. Johannes Sarnthein of Zurich University Hospital, member of the Research Commission, in his commendation remarks. “These findings directly impact the care of patients with Parkinson’s syndrome,” said her supervisor Stephan Rüegg, who as a member of the Research Commission abstained from evaluating the work of his Ph.D. student.

The Swiss League Against Epilepsy Prize for Best Dissertation is awarded every three years and carries prize money of CHF 1,000.

This year’s Tissot Medal for extraordinary services to Swiss epileptology goes to Dr. Günter Krämer, Zurich.

Prize award ceremonies

Research Recognition Award: Thursday 9.5.2019, 10:15 a.m. as part of the President’s symposium

Prize for Best Dissertation: Friday 10.5.2019, as part of the young epileptologists symposium (10:00-12:00 a.m.)

Journalists are welcome but requested to register in advance.

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