Institute of Neuroscience

Controlling abnormal network dynamics

The CANDO Project: Controlling abnormal network dynamics with optogenetics

In the brain, nerve cells generate rhythmic activity or ‘brain waves’. In many neurological diseases these rhythms are disrupted, producing abnormal patterns of activity. In epilepsy, abnormal activity can often be localised to a small ‘focus’, which then spreads causing a seizure. Epilepsy affects 600,000 people in the UK and uncontrolled seizures have devastating effects on patients’ lives. Nearly a third of cases fail to respond to conventional drug treatments and may require surgical removal of the focus. However, surgery may not be suitable for all patients due to irreversible damage to necessary brain functions. 

This project proposes an alternative treatment using a small implant to modulate abnormal activity and so prevent seizure development. The implant provides precisely timed stimulation by continuously monitoring brain waves via implanted electrodes and modifying them via implanted light sources. This requires that some cells within the focus are genetically altered using a safe virus to make them sensitive to light. The goal of this project is to create a successful first-in-human trial in epilepsy patients.

Newcastle University staff and students linked to the project:

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