UCI epilepsy researcher receives nation's top neuroscience prize

June 20, 2006

Irvine, Calif. -- Dr. Tallie Z. Baram, a UC Irvine School of Medicine neurologist and one of the world's top epilepsy researchers, has received a Senator Jacob Javits Award in the Neurosciences, the nation's most prestigious prize for cutting-edge research into brain disorders.

Javits awards are given annually by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke to recognize researchers whose work is supported by the institute and who have demonstrated exceptional scientific excellence and productivity. Baram is the ninth UCI researcher to receive this award.

Baram, the Danette "Dee Dee" Shepard Chair in Neurological Sciences, is founder and executive committee chair of UCI's Epilepsy Research Center. As a researcher, she is considered the world's leading investigator of the basic neural mechanisms involved in childhood febrile seizures -- seizures caused by high fever -- and how prolonged febrile seizures might lead to the onset of adult epilepsy.

"Dr. Baram has richly earned this award for her innovative epilepsy research, which is giving us both a better understanding of epilepsy disorders and therapeutic benefits to patients," said Dr. Thomas C. Cesario, dean of the School of Medicine.

Baram's work has defined the molecular changes within brain cells that are caused by early-life febrile seizures. She has studied how fever interacts with the brain to generate seizures, and how brain imaging can define individuals who are at risk for epilepsy after prolonged febrile seizures.

Her research also has helped establish an understanding of the neurobiology behind infantile spasms, a devastating form of epilepsy in infants. Her research on this topic also identifies targets for the design of new and more effective drugs that may help calm these childhood seizures without the side effects of drugs designed for adults.

A native of Israel, Baram earned a doctorate from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, and her medical degree from the University of Miami. She has held faculty appointments at the University of Texas at Houston and its M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and at USC, before joining UCI in 1995. In 2002, she founded the UCI Epilepsy Research Center, and she is currently the scientific director of the UCI Comprehensive Epilepsy Program.

In 2005, Baram received the Epilepsy Research Recognition Award from the American Epilepsy Society, the nation's top award for research on this brain disorder.

"This Javits Award affirms the importance of our research on the neurobiology of epilepsy in children" Baram said. "This prestigious award highlights the truly outstanding quality of neuroscience epilepsy research at UCI."

Authorized by the United States Congress in 1983, the award honors the late U.S. Senator Jacob K. Javits (R-N.Y.), who was a strong advocate for research on a variety of neurological disorders. Senator Javits suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the disabling neurodegenerative disease also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Baram is one of six investigators to receive the Javits Award this year. As part of the award, Baram will receive an additional three years' funding for a current four-year NINDS research grant.

Previous UCI Javits Award recipients are: Edward Jones (1984), Larry Overman (1985 and '92), Dr. Ricardo Miledi (1989), Charles Ribak (1990), John Wasmuth (1991), Arthur Lander (1998), Ivan Soltesz (2005) and Michael Cahalan (2005).
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