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Funding boost for brain imaging in children with epilepsy

Tuesday, 08 June 2021

Researchers have been awarded almost £1m to use a wearable brain scanner to help pinpoint the source of epileptic seizures in children.

Professor Matthew Brookes and his team at the University of Nottingham will work alongside partners at UCL, Great Ormond Street Hospital, and Young Epilepsy. This team are already working to develop a system for young adults and older children. The new funding will support further development of this helmet-like brain imaging device, to measure electrical brain activity non-invasively in children as young as one year old. Having developed the system for healthy children, they will deploy it in infants with epilepsy.

This new type of brain scanner, which employs quantum enabled sensors to measure magnetic fields above the scalp (a process termed magnetoencepaholography (MEG)) could help to pinpoint the source of epileptic seizures in the brain, offering new information which will be extremely useful to neurosurgeons.

The project is supported through a £900,000 Healthcare Impact Partnership grant and is among 20 innovative projects announced to revolutionise healthcare and improve treatments for millions of people with a wide range of conditions, and save the NHS money.

The projects are supported by £30.8 million of funding by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Four projects were co-funded by UKRI’s Medical Research Council (MRC).

 

There is excellent evidence that a MEG scan can help improve outcomes, post surgery, for adults with epilepsy, but the current generation of MEG instrumentation has limited spatial precision and is very difficult to deploy in infants. We believe our new quantum enabled device will offer significantly better spatial precision, and will be adaptable to infants as young as 1 year old. This could prove hugely valuable for assessment of patients suffering with this debilitating disorder.
Professor Matthew Brookes who leads the MEG research at the University of Nottingham

EPSRC Executive Chair Professor Dame Lynn Gladden said: "Technologies and approaches pioneered by UK researchers have the potential to revolutionise treatment for a wide range of conditions, from bowel cancer to diabetes. The projects announced exemplify this potential and may play a key role in improving the lives of millions of people.”

The funded projects include:

  • Two EPSRC programme grants – Terabotics and Beyond Antibiotics – funded with a £14.5 million investment
  • Four projects funded by EPSRC and MRC through sandpit grants for novel digital technologies for improved self-monitoring and health management, with an investment of £1.6 million
  • Seven Healthcare Impact Partnerships funded with a £7 million EPSRC investment. This call supports novel mathematical, engineering, ICT and physical sciences research that is aligned to the Healthcare Technologies theme strategy and contributes to at least one of the Healthcare Technologies Grand Challenges
  • Seven NetworkPlus grants funded with a £5.7 million investment. The grants aim to support research communities that address our priorities for transforming healthcare including: 
    • technologies to improve healthcare treatment;
    • affordable and inclusive healthcare solutions
    • healthier environments
    • new digital healthcare systems.

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Matthew Brookes on matthew.brookes@nottingham.ac.uk or Jane Icke, Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham, onjane.icke@nottingham.ac.uk

 

Notes to editors

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Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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