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27 Nov 17. Job - PhD vacancy (DTP4)

Project Details - Functional brain connectivity to reveal the relationships between seizures, cognition and behaviour in children with epilepsy

PhD Vacancy – Doctoral Training Programme (DTP) in Precision Medicine

 

Project title: Functional brain connectivity to reveal the relationships between seizures, cognition and behaviour in children with epilepsy

Supervisors: Dr Richard Chin & Javier Escudero Rodriguez

 

Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences

 

Background

Epilepsy is one of the most common neurological disorders. It causes devastating effects on the quality of life of its patients, which are particularly dire in the case of children. This PhD project will apply mathematical time series analysis tools to electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings to better understand the causes of cognitive and behavioural impairments in children with epilepsy. This is an exciting collaboration between clinicians and engineers, it will benefit from the availability of already collected clinical datasets at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, and it will train the PhD student in a suite of quantitative methods that includes computational and digital signal analysis tools, and connectivity analysis.

The EEG is highly relevant to epilepsy since it is routinely used in the clinic to detect ictal activity. However, epilepsy leads to other much more subtle effects in the EEG than seizures (van Diessen et al., 2016). Previous EEG studies in children with epilepsy have shown a relationship between impairments, frequent epileptic discharges and severity of the background abnormality in EEGs but whether this relationship is epilepsy specific or not has not been investigated yet. A prompt identification and monitoring of comorbid cognitive and behavioural impairments is urgently needed (Braun, 2017).

The fact that epilepsy might affect non-local brain connections, leading to diffuse damage, might explain some of the developmental problems in children with epilepsy (Stam, 2014). This suggests that computationally driven connectivity analysis of EEG activity in children with epilepsy is a prime candidate to reveal this currently hidden relationships between epilepsy, impairments and EEG abnormalities. In this sense, it is important to emphasise that the feasibility of this project is strengthen by pilot results by our team where we have found modest, but robust, correlations between basic classical EEG features and cognitive scores (Kinney-Lang et al., 2017).

Thus, we propose to analyse already available resting-state EEG activity from children with epilepsy. All analysis will be appropriately cross-validated and will benefit from the close supervision of both clinical (RC) and an engineering (JER) supervisors. First, the EEG datasets will be preprocessed following state-of-the-art approaches. Clinically relevant events will be delineated and classical EEG analyses (e.g., power, average ERPs, etc.) will be applied as benchmarks to the more advanced connectivity investigations. Then, we will implement state-of-the-art functional connectivity analysis. We will assess the significance of the results, compare them with classical tools, and discuss the relevance of findings.

We expect to achieve a rigorous validation of the techniques and an increased understanding of this major aspect of epilepsy. Our approach agrees with the currently view of epilepsy as a network disease (Stam, 2014). Due to the routine use of EEG to screen for ictal activity in epilepsy, we are confident that our methodology could find a rapid acceptance in the field.

 

If interested, please read here for the full details of the post.

 

Prospective students can apply here, before the deadline for 18/19 applications is 5pm on Wednesday 10th January 2018.