Brian Neville

BMJ 2017; 356 doi: (Published 20 March 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;356:j1399
  1. Anne Gulland
  1. London
  1. annecgulland{at}

Paediatric neurologist who adopted new approaches to treating epilepsy

Credit: Young Epilepsy

One of the greatest attributes of Brian Neville, a paediatric neurologist, was his ability to see the whole child, rather than the disease or set of symptoms. As a specialist in epilepsy he was one of the first to recognise that the condition led to cognitive and behavioural problems, and he reasoned that the quicker epilepsy was treated, the less likely it was that a child would develop these problems.

A “believable paediatric neurology service”

Surgery to reduce seizures in adults was already well established, but it was seen as controversial in children and was performed rarely. But as neuroimaging techniques began to improve, Neville thought surgery had a role for children with drug resistant epilepsy. He introduced a surgery service at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 1990, and subsequent research showed that, as well as being freed from seizures, children who had surgery on their temporal lobe saw their IQ scores increase.1

Neville was quick to seize on new developments. In 1989, when the Institute of Child Health appointed him as the first UK chair of paediatric neurology, the department also acquired one of the first magnetic resonance imaging scanners …

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