April 18, 2011 3:10 p.m.
Ivan Soltesz, professor and chair of anatomy & neurobiology, has received a $1.2 million National Institutes of Health grant to develop novel ways of stopping epileptic seizures through the use of optical fibers. The grant was awarded under the new Exceptional, Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration initiative, designed to foster innovative research on difficult problems, solutions to which would have a big impact on biomedical research. Soltesz and his group will test whether seizures can be arrested by external modulation of the brain's electrical activity by light delivered through thin optical fibers inserted into specific brain centers containing modified light-sensitive cells. A key goal of the project is to apply these optogenetic methods in a highly selective manner to only a few brain cells at a time in order to stop epileptic activity with minimal interference in normal brain functions. Recognized as one of the nation's top epilepsy researchers, Soltesz has garnered the Senator Jacob Javits Award in the Neurosciences, the U.S.'s top prize for cutting-edge research into brain disorders, and the Michael Prize, a prestigious international award for high-impact epilepsy research.
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