Authors: Lauren Pulling
As part of #NCEpilepsyWeek, we spoke to Marc Goodfellow, a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Exeter (UK), who, along with his colleagues, is pioneering research in to new techniques for identifying specific brain regions that trigger seizures in epilepsy.
Marc Goodfellow trained in Mathematics at the University of Edinburgh (UK), before moving to the University of Manchester (UK) to undertake a PhD in Systems Biology. Since 2013 he has been working as a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Exeter (UK). Marc’s research uses mathematical tools to help understand problems in biology, with a focus on medical applications.
First, please could you tell us a little about your background? How did you become involved in epilepsy research?
I became involved in epilepsy research at the start of my doctoral studies in 2007. Studying in an interdisciplinary doctoral training center, there were several projects that I could have chosen to focus on for my PhD. One of the lecturers proposed an exciting project combining the analysis of EEG and the use of mathematical models to understand the mechanisms of seizures. The combined focus on an extremely complicated system such as the brain, along with the potential to make a difference to patients, was what grabbed my interest.
“…mathematical models are crucial because the brain is such a complicated organ. Healthy function and disease of the brain are underpinned by interactions between many components, which makes understanding these processes extremely challenging.”
To what extent can mathematical modeling be used to uncover the mechanisms that govern the changes in evolving spatiotemporal patterns that are observed in conditions such as epilepsy?
In my opinion, mathematical models are crucial because the brain is such a complicated organ. Healthy function and disease of the brain are underpinned by interactions between many components, which makes understanding these processes extremely challenging. We need methods that can link patient data with underlying mechanisms, and mathematical models are valuable tools for doing this. In my research I use knowledge of the brain to build mathematical models that can simulate certain aspects of patient data, such as the onset and offset of seizures. Analyzing these models can then provide insight into why seizures occur.