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The Challenge of Epilepsy


Charlie W. Zhao
School of Medicine
Yale University
Jasper C.H. Wong

Western University
Tom L. Haffie (rr)
Department of Biology
Western University


This case study was originally developed for undergraduate science students as part of an extracurricular competition, but it could also be delivered as a directed case. Accordingly two versions of the activity are included. Each version requires students to read the same story of a young boy who has been diagnosed with a form of epilepsy that does not respond to currently available medication. Through conversations with various clinicians and researchers, the boy's parents find out more about epilepsy in its clinical, social and scientific contexts. Version A of the challenge requires considerable creativity and independence as students prepare a grant proposal for a research idea to study epilepsy. Version B can be used by instructors who wish to run a more traditional directed case in which a dramatic scenario is accompanied by a set of questions that students answer in groups and discuss in class. Although the case topic is based in neuroscience, the material is accessible to general science students; the narrative provides sufficient background information without formal instruction.


  • Learn about current treatment options and diagnostic tools for epilepsy.
  • Learn about the social context for individuals living with epilepsy.
  • Learn about current research in epilepsy from various fields including physiology, pharmacology, cell biology and genetics.
  • Appreciate the creative nature of scientific inquiry by learning to formulate original questions within the given constraints.
  • Access and critically evaluate literature in order to determine where their idea fits within the broader field.
  • Design a controlled experiment to test their proposed hypothesis.
  • Practice conveying information effectively in writing.


epilepsy; seizures; neurology; neuroscience; brain; MRI; EEG; creativity; independent learning; extracurricular

Topical Areas


Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division



Type / Methods

Directed, Discussion



Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Cell Biology  |   Medicine (General)  |   Neuroscience  |   Interdisciplinary Sciences  |   Molecular Biology  |   Physiology  |   Pharmacy / Pharmacology  |  

Date Posted


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