In the early 1990s, a young brain researcher named Ivan Soltesz heard a story that would shape his career. His adviser told him about a school for children whose epileptic seizures were so severe and frequent that they had to wear helmets to prevent head injuries. The only exception to the helmet rule was for students who received an award.
“The big deal for them is that they can take the helmet off while they’re walking across the stage,” Soltesz says. “And that thing struck me as just wrong.”
Today, Soltesz runs a lab at the University of California, Irvine, and he’s taken some big steps toward helping people with uncontrolled seizures. Epilepsy drugs aren’t enough, he says. For about a third of patients with epilepsy, they just don’t work. And for many others, they have major drawbacks.