Neuroscientist to discuss mechanisms of severe epilepsy

Eric Wengert, a doctoral candidate in the neuroscience program at the University of Virginia and former adjunct professor at EMU, will give a Suter Science Seminar on Wednesday, April 7, at 4:15 p.m. His talk is titled “Inhibitory interneuron dysfunction drives seizures in SCN8A epilepsy,” and will examine new evidence about the mechanisms of this severe epilepsy syndrome. 

The sessions are free to the public, and made possible by the sponsorship of the Daniel B. Suter Endowment in Biology and the co-sponsorship of supporting programs. They will be live streamed on the EMU Facebook Page.

Wengert is in his fifth year of the neuroscience PhD program under the mentorship of Professor Manoj Patel. His research focuses on a severe form of epilepsy which causes intellectual disability, motor impairment, and seizures that are difficult to treat with medication. 

“Gaining clarification of the precise mechanisms of the disease is warranted to help generate novel treatment strategies,” Wengert explains. “Although previously thought to be unaffected in SCN8A encephalopathy, this presentation will highlight new evidence that inhibitory interneurons are dysfunctional in SCN8A encephalopathy, and that their abnormal activity is sufficient to drive behavioral seizures.”

Wengert earned his bachelor’s in neuroscience from Bucknell University. After his anticipated graduation from the University of Virginia this May, he will join the laboratory of Dr. Ethan Goldberg at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a postdoctoral fellow.

Named in honor of long-time EMU biology professor, Daniel B. Suter (1920-2006), the Endowment in Biology was established in 1986 through the generous donations of alumni and friends and currently consists of over $1 million of invested funds. EMU hopes to double the Suter Endowment in order to more adequately support distinguished faculty and to increase scholarship aid to deserving students.