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Research

Overview

The research program in child neurology uses state-of-the-art scientific methods to improve the understanding of neurological disorders affecting children of all ages, focusing on both common conditions and unusual diseases that can lead to serious complications. Examples include autism, epilepsy, neuromuscular disorders, neurofibromatosis, and neurogenetic diseases. Our faculty and staff utilize cutting-edge techniques such as advanced neuroimaging, molecular biology and cell signaling in a partnership with basic scientists and multidisciplinary clinical teams. 

Research Faculty

Name
Areas of Special Interest
Mohamad Mikati, MD, Chief Alternating hemiplegia of childhood, clinical epilepsy (pharmacology, genetics, pharmacogenetics), basic mechanisms of alternating hemiplegia of childhood and seizure-related neuronal injury
William Brian Gallentine, DO Clinical epilepsy (pharmacology and genetics), continuous electroencephalographic monitoring, autoimmune encephalitis
Joan Mary Jasien, MD Cerebral palsy, monogenic autism, alternating hemiplegia of childhood
Sujay Kansagra, MD Pharmacologic treatment of narcolepsy
Monica E. Lemmon, MD Neonatal neurology, ethics, prognosis after neonatal brain injury
Darrell V. Lewis, MD Febrile seizures, clinical epilepsy
Carolyn Pizoli, MD, PhD Understanding the development of neural networks after acquired brain injury
Edward C. Smith, MD Neuromuscular disorders, muscular dystrophy
Purnima Valdez, MD Autism, effect of electronic media on the developing brain
Klaus Werner, MD Headaches, tuberous sclerosis
Gordon Worley, MD Clinical problems of children with cerebral palsy, spina bifida, Down syndrome, head trauma, and autism and to genetic factors contributing to condition causation or influencing condition severity

Adjunct Faculty

Name
Areas of Special Interest
Rose-Mary Boustany, MD Neurogenetic disorders, lysosomal storage disease, general neurology
Abeer Hani, MD Epilepsy syndromes and therapy

Emeritus Faculty

Name
Areas of Special Interest
George Robert DeLong, MD Neuropsychiatric disorders, autism

Research Associates

Name Areas of Special Interest
Arsen Hunanyan, MD Neurophysiology and basic mechanisms of epilepsy

Clinical Research

In clinical research, we are addressing several important questions:

  • The relationship between febrile seizures and medial temporal sclerosis. The use of new structural MRI diagnostic techniques allows the testing of the intriguing hypothesis that prolonged febrile seizures lead to medial temporal sclerosis.
  • The development and testing of new anti-epileptic drugs and the investigation of the role of continuous EEG monitoring in the management of patients with acute brain insults and traumatic brain injury.
  • The long-term outcome after acute neurological insults in neonates and older children. A team of specialists including neurologists, neonatologists, and psychologists, and others are joining forces to assess these outcomes and determine the predictors that influence them.

Basic Research

In basic research, we seek to:

  • Determine the genetic basis of a number of neurogenetic diseases, including familial epilepsy syndromes and autism. The ultimate aim of this research is to achieve a better understanding of the causes of these disorders and the factors that influence resistance to therapy.
  • Define the basic mechanisms of neuronal injury in the developing brain, with the hope that this information will ultimately lead to new therapeutic approaches to protect children from the effects of insults that damage the brain and from the effects of seizure related injuries.

Translational Research

In translational research, we are collaborating with basic science and clinical research programs in several departments. These collaborative efforts focus on the identification of genetic markers for prediction of clinical outcome and on the response to novel interventions and therapies in a number of serious diseases. Specifically, these efforts include defining the following: 

  • The nature of the mechanisms underlying autism and the chromosomal abnormalities that could contribute to this and related conditions. Among these is the GABA(A) receptor alpha5 subunit as a candidate gene for autism and bipolar disorder.
  • The identification of biochemical markers and therapeutic targets in cell signaling pathways in NF-1. This work is performed via the Duke Neurofibromatosis Clinic, which is an Affiliate Clinic of the Children’s Tumor Foundation Neurofibromatosis Clinical Network
  • The response of a variety of neuromuscular and neurogenetic disorders to enzyme therapy and vector-mediated gene therapy. 4. The identification of mutations that result in febrile seizures and intractable epilepsy.
  • The pharmacogenetics of epilepsy.
  • Utilization of novel in vitro models of neurodegenerative diseases with transgene expression by nucleofection, aiming to facilitate drug discovery.

Clinical Trials

For further information about clinical trials currently being conducted in the Division of Child Neurology, please visit dukechildrens.org.