WONOEP – The Workshop on Neurobiology of the Epilepsies

What is WONOEP?

The Workshop on Neurobiology of the Epilepsies (WONOEP), a satellite event of the ILAE Congress since 1989, is a biannual international forum for the discussion of issues related to experimental epileptology. Each WONOEP is focused, although not exclusively, on a theme. WONOEP is co-sponsored by ILAE and, since 2009, other funding agencies. One of the aspects of the WONOEP meeting that distinguishes it from other meetings is the degree to which philosophical musing and hypothetical speculation is allowed. It is the goal of this meeting to encourage the sharing of new ideas and the development of new research directions. To achieve this goal, researchers from all areas of epilepsy research (clinical and basic scientists) at almost any step of their career (postdoctoral fellows, MDs in training, group leaders, and beyond) are invited to submit their abstracts and contribute to WONOEP. The history of WONOEP is at the core of the Neurobiology Commission. WONOEP is one of the most successful achievement of ILAE to assess the present state and significance of epilepsy research and to rule its future developments.

A short history of WONOEP

Basic science in the ILAE was boosted greatly by the creation of the Commission on Neurobiology in 1988, and by the organisation of the Workshops on Neurobiology of Epilepsy (WONOEP).

WONOEP grew out of the Workshops on Neurotransmitters in Epilepsy (WONIEP), which were initially independent of the ILAE and were first held in Paris in 1981 under the leadership of Paolo Morselli and Kenneth Lloyd. The first workshop was entirely devoted to a focus on GABA – it was sponsored by Synthélabo when that firm was developing progabide, an analog and prodrug of GABA. WONIEP II was held in San Antonio, Texas, in 1983, and included papers on catecholamines, opioids, excitatory amino acids and neuropeptides and was organized by professors Ruggero Fariello and “Pete” Engel.  At the WONIEP III meeting in 1985, held at Soverato, in Calabria, Italy, it became apparent that GABA had certain proconvulsant, as well as anticonvulsant, properties, and that simple GABAergic drugs may not be as effective in suppressing seizures clinically as drugs working on other neurotransmitter systems. These findings were disappointing to the sponsor (Synthélabo), at the same time emphasizing the need for scientific independence for the workshop and financial independence from a single sponsor with an “agenda!”

WONIEP IV was held in Stresa, Italy, and it was then that the request was made to the ILAE to create a Commission on Neurobiology which would continue the workshops under the leadership of the ILAE (using the new title – WONOEP) and also to organize scientific sessions and short courses on basic research at the international meetings and other venues outside the International Epilepsy Congress. This important transition (credit to Pete Engel for proposing the idea, and Fritz Dreifuss for implementing it in his capacity as the President of ILAE) was crucial to expanding the scope of scientific activities under the ILAE banner, providing scientific independence to the workshops and expanding offerings to special short courses guided by the Commission on Neurobiolgy.

The first ILAE-supported “WONOEP” was held in 1991 in Salvador, Brazil, and since then 11 further WONOEPs have been held preceding international congresses, each dealing with important areas of basic research in epilepsy. Similarly, basic science has featured strongly at ILAE congresses and meetings, and basic scientists have become active members of the ILAE community.

About the WONEP logo and artist

Bryony Reed was born in England in 1992 and spent the early years of her life living in various countries from the U.S. to the Czech Republic. When she was ten she was diagnosed with refractory epilepsy.

Originally she was treated at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County, but moved to UCLA in 2005 and became Dr Sankar’s patient in 2007.  Dr Sankar helped to manage Bryony’s seizures with a combination of various anticonvulsant medications and a VNS.  Bryony attended advanced courses at Valencia High School in Orange County from 2007-2010, and was accepted into the graphic design program at the Art Institute of Orange County.

Dr Sankar approached Byrony to create a logo for WONOEP, and of the several designs she submitted, he chose a design that was an abstracted version of a neuron with sans serif type that she created specifically for this logo.

Dr Sankar adds, "Bryony has endured a difficult condition bravely, and has persevered to pursue her dream of becoming a graphic artist. I feel privileged to be her doctor and to be able to do my part in enabling her by controlling her seizures.  I am especially proud of her getting  commission from the ILAE.  The new logo for the WONOEP will forever highlight the motivation for our collective research effort – patients like Bryony!"

WONOEP History

Information on Previous Workshops