Finnish Epilepsy Research Fuels International Collaboration

Finnish Epilepsy Research Fuels International Collaboration

Honorary chairman of the Finnish Epilepsy Society, Finnish Epilepsy Association and Epilepsy Research Foundation, Professor Emeritus Matti Sillanpää has had a long and distinguished career as a physician, child neurologist, teacher, and researcher. He is recognized as one of the most influential child neurologists in the world based on the book edited by Stephen Ashwal (2021): “Child Neurology: Its Origins, Founders, Growth and Evolution.”

Matti plays a pivotal role in that Finland is globally known as a country with high-quality epilepsy research. Sillanpää has been a Standing Committee member in many international scientific and patient organizations, such as International League of Epilepsy (ILAE), International Bureau of Epilepsy (IBE). His key international research collaborators include Albert Einstein College of Medicine (NY), University of Wisconsin-MadisonColumbia University in US and Dalhousie University in Canada.

The most important research project in Sillanpää’s career is The Epilepsy Long-Term Monitoring Project (EPILAD, now. The Turku Adult Childhood-Onset Epilepsy or TACOE project). For 60 years, Sillanpää has monitored children with epilepsy throughout their life-cycle in a population-based prospective cohort. The latest report in this unique multidisciplinary follow-up study was recently published.

“The latest paper of the TACOE project was published in December 2021. The results suggest that childhood-onset epilepsy may speed up brain aging processes, especially among those who continue to have active epilepsy from childhood into their 60s. The paper was selected as one of the six most influential papers in 2021 in the field of epilepsy research”, describes Professor Sillanpää interviewed by Saija Tarro, Development Manager of Turku Brain & Mind, Neurocenter Finland.

Matti Sillanpää’s work has influenced the status of people with epilepsy and improved their possibilities to lead a better life. With his unique lifelong work and worldwide collaboration he has shown that  it is important for those with childhood-onset epilepsy to work to achieve seizure control but it’s also vital that they pay attention to risk and resilience factors for healthy brain and cognitive aging, including a healthy diet, exercise, and social activity”, says Professor Reetta Kälviäinen from the University of Eastern Finland, the Director of the Kuopio Epilepsy Center in the Kuopio University Hospital and the Chair of the steering board of Neurocenter Finland. Professor Kälviäinen serves in the steering group of the European Reference Network for rare and complex epilepsies EpiCARE and co-chairs the Epilepsy Scientific Panel of the European Academy of Neurology.

“The purpose of the Neurocenter Finland and Brain & Mind network is to strengthen the international cooperation and visibility of Finnish brain health research. Matti Sillanpää is a great inspiration to all of us”, she concludes.

International Epilepsy Day is a global event celebrated annually on the 2nd Monday of February, to promote awareness on epilepsy right around the world. With IBE and ILAE representation in more than 140 countries, this is a powerful opportunity to highlight the problems faced by people with epilepsy, their families and carers, in every region of the world.