Dr. Tallie Z. Baram wins nation's top epilepsy research award

December 05, 2005

Dr. Tallie Z. Baram, whose groundbreaking studies on childhood seizures have fundamentally altered medicine's understanding of epilepsy, will receive the nation's top award for research on this brain disorder.

Baram will receive the Epilepsy Research Recognition Award from the American Epilepsy Society at its national meeting today in Washington, D.C. She is the first woman and the first UC Irvine researcher to achieve this honor.

Baram, the Danette Shepard Chair in Neurological Sciences in the UCI School of Medicine, 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's work has a broad and long-term impact on both epilepsy research and the care of children who suffer from seizures," said Dr. Thomas C. Cesario, dean of the School of Medicine. "She truly is a trailblazer in her field and a valued leader at UCI and in the epilepsy research community."

Baram's work 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. She was the first scientist to create a research concept for this disorder that is consistent with and explains the unusual responses of this form of epilepsy to stress hormones. Baram's research on this topic 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. After receiving her medical degree from the University of Miami in 1980, Baram completed pediatrics and neurology residencies at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She followed with faculty appointments at 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.

The Epilepsy Research Recognition Award is annually given by the American Epilepsy Society, one of the oldest neurological professional organizations in the nation, with roots dating to 1898. The society promotes research and education for professionals dedicated to the prevention, treatment and cure of epilepsy.

Epilepsy is the third most common neurological disorder in the United States after Alzheimer's disease and stroke. It is not a single entity but a family of more than 40 syndromes that affect 2.7 million people in the U.S. and 50 million worldwide. Epilepsy strikes most often among the very young and the very old, although anyone can get it at any age.
The UCI Epilepsy Research Center and UCI Comprehensive Epilepsy Program collaborate to conduct research and help patients achieve the highest quality of life possible. The UCI Comprehensive Epilepsy Program provides individualized care for patients through comprehensive treatment methods and draws skills and talents from the board-certified physicians located at the UCI Epilepsy Research Center. Through education, research and direct patient care, the programs develop a greater understanding of epilepsy that will ultimately lead to its prevention and cure.

About the University of California, Irvine: Celebrating 40 years of innovation, the University of California, Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Founded in 1965, UCI is among the fastest-growing University of California campuses, with more than 24,000 undergraduate and graduate students and about 1,400 faculty members. The second-largest employer in dynamic Orange County, UCI contributes an annual economic impact of $3 billion. For more UCI news, visit www.today.uci.edu.

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NOTE TO EDITORS: Photo available at http://today.uci.edu/news/release_detail.asp?key=1412

University of California - Irvine

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