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From demons and exorcism to gene mutations and targeted therapy


Hutton Theatre

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Where Scientific Research Has Taken Our Understanding and Treatment of Epilepsy

Epilepsy is the most common serious brain illness in children and can be associated with significant learning, movement and behaviour problems. One in four children with severe epilepsy die before they become adults.

Professor Lynette Sadleir, from the Wellington School of Medicine and the University of Otago's Brain Health Research Centre, explains that historically, curses and demonic possession were thought to cause epilepsy, with treatments involving amulets and exorcisms. Research has now revealed that changes in a child's genetic code is what actually causes epilepsy and novel therapies, such as cannabidiol, are being shown to improve the outcome for children with genetic epilepsies.

1pm–1.50pm, Saturday 16 March