Clinical drive, technical innovations

In this note we describe the research mission of the Neu3CA team.

Answering the right question

Within Neu3CA, we strive for real-world impact in addition to academic output. We mainly focus on cognitive impairments as a side-effect of epilepsy. The occurance of spontaneous seizures is a key aspect of epilepsy, but seizures are only one aspect of this disease. In more than half the epilepsy patients, additional problems occur, notably cognitive complaints, and these account for about half the disease burden. Treatment options for cognitive complaints are currently very limited. The story is complicated by the fact that anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) themselves may also cause cognitive complaints. Cognitive complaint coping in clinical pratice thus comes down to a trade-off: in a close diaglogue between doctor and patient, it is searched for sufficient seizure suppresion balanced by acceptable side effects.

We try to address the complex issue of cognitive complaints in epilepsy in a multidisciplinary team. We involve clinicians (neurologists, neuropsychologists) to get an idea about the exact type of complaints, how these impact quality of life, and what daily clinical care looks like. We also involve people with a more technical background to translate these issue into technical problems (e.g. complex fMRI analyses) to gain more insight. These results are then discussed within our team and inspire the next steps in our research. This clinical-technical dialogue makes sure that we do research that is innovative, but at the end of the day has actual added value for our patients as well.

This integration between technicians and clinicians is visible in all aspects of Neu3CA: both technical and clinical research institutes are involved; the program has both a technical and a clinical director; and both technical and clinical PhD students work together in specific research projects.

Following this approach, we hope to not only give the right answer, but also to address the right question.