Professor Helen Cross

Great Ormond Street Hospital


Children and young people with epilepsy tend to have recurrent seizures or fits. Having one seizure doesn’t mean someone has epilepsy.

Seizures are caused by a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain. This means there is a temporary disruption in the way that messages are passed between brain cells.

There are many different types of epileptic seizure. The type of epileptic seizure a child has depends on which area of their brain is affected. Epilepsy may result from genetic causes, a severe head injury, birth difficulties, or an infection which affects the brain.

Epilepsy is twice as common in children as in adults (7 per 1000 in children under the age of 16 years).


Movement disorders affect the way a child’s body moves. These conditions can include too much or too little movement, or co-ordination problems.

Movement disorders may be caused by injuries to the brain, genetic or metabolic conditions, medications, inflammatory or autoimmune disorders, or prior infections.

Signs and symptoms of movement disorders include:

  • Repetitive eye blinking, facial movements, sniffing, coughing, throat clearing, squeaks, squeals, or speech (tics)
  • Jerks of the neck or body (myoclonus)
  • Problems with balance and coordination (ataxia)
  • Uncontrolled jerky movements (chorea)
  • Abnormal twisting postures (dystonia)
  • Rhythmic back and forth motions of a body part (tremor)


The neuromuscular system includes all muscles throughout the body and the nerves that connect them.

There are a wide variety of neuromuscular disorders that can occur in children. These conditions impact the peripheral nervous system, which includes the muscles, neuromuscular junction, peripheral nerves in the limbs, and motor-nerve cells in the spinal cord.

While signs and symptoms vary according to the specific neuromuscular condition, common symptoms include pain and muscle weakness.


The Epilepsy, Movement, and Muscle Disorders theme has the following focus:

  • Improve communication between families and clinical teams.
  • Develop methods to support the early detection and prevention of seizures.
  • Develop technology that aids recognition of and minimises aberrant movements.
  • Develop assistive technologies to support children with myopathies.



Professor Helen Cross is the Prince of Wales’s Chair of Childhood Epilepsy and Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Neurology at the UCL Institute of Child Health, Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children, and Young Epilepsy, Lingfield.

Helen developed the epilepsy surgery unit at Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and is currently Clinical Advisor to the National Children’s Epilepsy Surgery Service.

Helen’s main research interest is the early intervention and improvement of outcomes in children with complex epilepsy.