AEP data helping our understanding of brain dynamics

March 20, 2023
Sam Jackson

Vicky He, second year PhD student at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health is conducting neuroimaging research to better understand how the brain works, and how it may be affected in people living with epilepsy, using the AEP imaging data.

Vicky He’s research uses MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to map the location of brain functions. One example of how this works is when asking someone to perform a task such as indicating whether words rhyme - the MRI is able to show which parts of the brain are active during the task.

Mapping brain function in this way, has been a mainstay of brain imaging research for many years.

But we are now moving beyond this to explore brain dynamics; that is, how do distinct brain regions communicate to perform complex tasks?

Reading is one of the more complex tasks that humans can perform. The visual word form area is one of the brain regions that plays an important role in reading. It is known to be involved in identifying words and letters from lower-level shape images, but with what other brain regions does it communicate? And does that communication change depend upon the task being performed?

We can begin to answer these question using data from the Australian Epilepsy Project pilot study. Participants perform a pseudoword rhyming task as well as a control task. We have built advanced statistical models and found increased communication occurred between the visual word form area and other critical language regions when a participant is reading.

This finding supports the hypothesis that the brain dynamically reorganises communication between different regions to perform different tasks.

The next step is to look at the relationship between the ability of a brain to quickly adapt to a task, and the corresponding ability of the individual to successfully perform the task.

This would shed light on how the brain functions, provide valuable insight to better understand impairments, and potentially provide targets for therapy to improve performance.

Read the full research abstract: Mapping information flow in the human brain

AEP Participant: Gary Alway

Gary has been living with epilepsy for almost three decades. In his early 20s his epilepsy was fairly-well managed with medication, and his seizures were rare. But then everything changed. He began having multiple seizures and blackouts every day, culminating in a car crash nine years ago, caused by a seizure.

AEP Participant: Fiona Waugh

Fiona didn’t experience her first seizure until 34-years-of-age and after a further two tonic clonic seizures in as many days, she was diagnosed with epilepsy. “Since diagnosis I’ve remained drug-resistant with a high frequency of seizure activity. But I’ve always had a desire to try and get on top of it, which has led me to make some big treatment decisions over the years.”

Meet the AEP team: Elliot Brooker

Elliot is a valued member of the AEP Neuropsychology team and is responsible for conducting telehealth neuropsychology assessments for AEP participants and control group volunteers.