Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Chen honored with Epilepsy Society / Milken Early Career Award

December 10, 2008

HOUSTON - The American Epilepsy Society / Milken Family Foundation Early Career Physicians Scientist Award has been given to David K. Chen, M.D., director of the Neurophysiology Laboratory at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center and assistant professor of neurology at Baylor College of Medicine.

The award of $50,000 was presented Dec. 5 during the American Epilepsy Society’s 62nd Annual Meeting in Seattle. It will support Chen’s research investigating diffusion tensor and magnetization transfer imaging as a means to better understand the association of posttraumatic epilepsy with pathologies in the mesial temporal region of the brain.

“My question is why do some patients with brain injuries develop epilepsy, while others with the same degree of damage do not,” said Chen. “We suspect they have ‘silent’ lesions in the brain that our conventional imaging can not detect.”

Chen, under the mentorship of Harvey Levin, M.D., professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at BCM, will use traditional MRI along with advance computation methods that use the movement of water molecules to better resolve microstructural abnormalities of the brain.

“If you have a damaged area, there is a lot more freedom of water molecules as opposed to a healthy, properly structured brain where water molecules don’t have as much room to move around,” Chen said. “Our computational algorithms may resolve significant differences in regions that would typically be undetectable using our naked eye visualization alone.”

The team will scan the mesial temporal region of healthy brains to compare them to those of people with head trauma but no epilepsy, as well as those with posttraumatic epilepsy. Being able to detect subtle areas of lesions will allow doctors to know what types of treatments will be more beneficial to the patient, whether it is surgery, medication or rehabilitation.

Other BCM researchers who will take part in the study include Elisabeth Wilde, M.D., assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation; Zili (David) Chu, assistant professor of radiology, M.D.; Ziaoqi Li, instructor of physical medicine and rehabilitation; and Majdi Radaideh, M.D., associate professor of radiology and radiologist in the Diagnostic and Therapeutic Care Line at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center.  

The American Epilepsy Society / Milken Family Foundation Early Career Physicians Scientist Award is meant to encourage the development of new therapies for epilepsy by providing research training for physicians early in their careers.

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