CEC Research

Research at the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center

Under the guidance of Drs. Orrin Devinsky, Ruben Kuzniecky, and Jacqueline French, the CEC’s research program is a dedicated priority and an area of continual expansion. Current efforts include new drug development, sudden unexplained death in epilepsy (SUDEP), the genetics of epilepsy, tuberous sclerosis and epilepsy, autism and epilepsy, sleep and memory, neurostimulation, the identification of biomarkers that predict epilepsy outcome, and many others. The research division has been organized into “working groups” which are comprised of clinicians from multiple disciplines, basic science researchers, neuropsychologists, and graduate students who share similar interests. Each working group focuses its effort on one primary problem area in epilepsy and meets on a regular basis. The five working groups (listed below) provide a brief synopsis of primary areas of interest and some ongoing projects.

All fellows interested in research projects are encouraged to speak with the faculty to develop an appropriate hypothesis and refine the experimental methodology so as to optimize the value of the research experience for all involved.

Research Working Groups:

Brain Stimulation/Sleep:

More than 60% of patients with epilepsy suffer from cognitive impairment, with declarative memory dysfunction representing the most common cognitive disturbance. This research group focuses on how memory consolidation is supported by sleep, and how sleep rhythms (such as slow oscillations and spindles) may be perturbed in epilepsy patients to contribute to memory dysfunction.  A secondary focus is to explore how various methods of neurostimulation, including transcranial electrical stimulation (TDCS, TACS), transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), acoustic stimulation, and direct cortical stimulation, can be applied to restore and enhance key rhythms supporting memory function.  Several active research projects at the NY Sleep Institute and the NYU Comprehensive Epilepsy Center combine cognitive testing, neurophysiology, and neurostimulation in both epilepsy patients and healthy controls.  The work is a collaboration with basic neuroscientists, cognitive neuroscientists, and biomedical engineers, and is currently funded by the NIH, NYU FACES, and other foundational support.


This group explores ways of improving our understanding of and diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to epilepsy, including explorations of neocortical epilepsy, and generalized epilepsy. Ongoing projects include exploration of cortical and subcortical quantitative changes associated with idiopathic generalized epilepsy, methods for identification of “undetected” (i.e. not seen on clinical review) malformations of cortical development and functional and structural based assessments of changes in cortical and subcortical dynamics in idiopathic generalized epilepsy utilizing resting state methods and tractography. Projects utilizing network connectivity and graph theory are also underway to better understand epilepsy-related networks. In addition, a novel assessment tool for stratifying patients based upon their likelihood of achieving seizure freedom from resective surgery has been retrospectively piloted utilizing a consecutive series of patients. Further methods to classify epilepsy, particularly neocortical epilepsy, are being explored.

Cognitive Neuroscience:

Currently led by Lucia Melloni, PhD, this group focuses on advancing our understanding of how the human brain generates cognition and behavior, pinpointing what goes awry in neurological diseases such as epilepsy, and developing treatments that ameliorate cognitive dysfunction. The group employs multiple recording and stimulation techniques: electrocorticography, in combination with laminar and Utah arrays and Neurogrid probes, allows for a mechanistic understanding of human cognition and disease at multiple spatial scales from individual neurons, to cortical layers, to brain areas, to whole-brain networks. Stimulation techniques, e.g., electrical stimulation, are used to obtain causal evidence for the role of specific neural processes. We are also actively developing therapeutic technologies, such as closed-loop stimulation, for seizure suppression and the treatment of memory disorders. The group has active collaborations within the medical center, the NYU Center for Neural Science, Columbia University, Yale University, UCSD, Harvard University, Princeton University, and others. Work from this dedicated and diverse group of researchers and clinicians has provided numerous ground-breaking insights into the field of cognitive neuroscience.


The epilepsy center neuroimaging working group uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and related techniques such as magnetic resonance spectroscopy, to investigate how brain structure and function are affected in epilepsy. We utilize advanced imaging methods for assessing focal and network-level brain changes, with a focus on improving clinical outcomes for both newly diagnosed and chronic epilepsy patients. Imaging methods include the use of high resolution structural imaging at both 3T and 7T, diffusion imaging for imaging patterns of white matter connections throughout the brain, imaging brain function both at rest and during cognitive and motor tasks using fMRI, and assessing brain metabolites using spectroscopy. We have an active interest in the application of advanced statistical modeling techniques for identifying subtle brain changes in epilepsy, including “big data” approaches which sometimes include thousands of participants, and cloud-based methods for image analysis and modeling. Our work is highly collaborative, with ongoing collaborations with other researchers within the epilepsy center, the wider NYU community, and with a multitude of epilepsy research groups across the United States and the rest of the world. Examples of current projects include the Human Epilepsy Project, and the Neural Markers of Quality of Life in Epilepsy study. Senior faculty members are Ruben Kuzniecky, MD and Heath Pardoe, PhD.


Sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) is perhaps the most common cause of premature mortality in patients with epilepsy leading to almost 3000 deaths in the U.S. annually. The NYULMC Epilepsy Center has been at the forefront of SUDEP research, launching the North American SUDEP Registry in 2011 and other studies, in collaboration with investigators, including neurologists, epidemiologists, genetics researchers, imaging researchers and neuropathologists at NYU and around the world, to understand the risk factors, mechanisms, neuropathology and genetics  of SUDEP. We are also interested in developing strategies to prevent SUDEP including behavioral interventions to improve disease self-management and devices to detect seizures. This work has been funded by NINDS, CDC, Epilepsy Foundation, the American Epilepsy Society and other industry and non-profit partners.