How clinical research has transformed understanding in epilepsy genetics

Laureate Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO and 2014 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science in Australia

Brain scanEpilepsy was originally thought to be due to demonic possession – just 25 years ago, doctors still laughed at the idea that epilepsy had a genetic basis. People with epilepsy denied that genetics played a role and were keen to attribute seizures to a host of other causes such as head injury and infection. Evidence was slim and no genes were known but in the intervening years a molecular revolution has occurred. Meticulous clinical research coupled with genetic studies has found that genes underpin many of the severe and also the milder forms of the disease. This has led to improved diagnosis, better recognition of associated disorders and the development of targeted therapies.

Read media release: Discovering the cause of epilepsy

Video recording


Professor Scheffer is brought to New Zealand in partnership with the University of Otago, Wellington.  She will also be presenting two midday academic seminars on Wednesday 13 April in Wellington and Friday 15 April in Christchurch as part of the 2016 Dean’s Open Lectures series.  More details on the University of Otago Wellington website.

Please note: The film Jabbing mentioned in the public talk is not available online in New Zealand.  If you or your organisation wish to purchase a DVD for home or educational use, in Australia or New Zealand, please contact 

For US based sales, please go to PBS site to purchase the US version entitled Vaccines – Calling the Shots.

About Professor Ingrid Scheffer AO

Ingrid-Scheffer-with-babyIngrid Scheffer is a physician-scientist whose work as a paediatric neurologist and epileptologist at the University of Melbourne has led the field of epilepsy genetics for over 20 years.  In collaboration with Professor Samuel Berkovic and molecular geneticists, she helped identify the first epilepsy gene and many more genes subsequently.

Ingrid Scheffer has received many awards including the L’Oréal-UNESCO Women in Science Laureate for the Asia-Pacific region for 2012 and the Australian 2014 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science. She was elected as a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science in 2014 and also elected Vice-President and Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.  In 2014 she was awarded the Order of Australia.

The Royal Society of New Zealand Distinguished Speaker series is generously supported by the David and Genevieve Becroft Foundation.