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UCSF Neurologist Recognized for Innovative Epilepsy Research

American Academy of Neurology to Honor Jon Kleen, MD, PhD with 2023 Dreifuss-Penry Epilepsy Award
American Academy of Neurology to Honor Jon Kleen, MD, PhD with 2023 Dreifuss-Penry Epilepsy Award
American Academy of Neurology to Honor Jon Kleen, MD, PhD with 2023 Dreifuss-Penry Epilepsy Award


Jon Kleen, MD, PhD, UC San Francisco neurologist, epileptologist and neuroscientist, has been chosen by the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) to receive its 2023 Dreifuss-Penry Epilepsy Award. He is being honored for his outstanding contributions in clinical research and leadership in the treatment of epilepsy.

Kleen is known for his expertise in signal processing (the use of computers to study patterns in large amounts of data), which he applies to cutting-edge diagnostic approaches and emerging therapies for epilepsy. His early work found that brief bursts of abnormal brain activity associated with epilepsy can cause momentary lapses in cognition when they occur deep in a part of the brain that is crucial for memory. After establishing this finding in animals, he demonstrated that this same phenomenon occurs in patients with epilepsy, and this work has catalyzed more investigations into this phenomenon by others in the past decade.  

He has also developed open-source technology that integrates brainwave recordings with brain images to help pinpoint where seizures start, with the goal of increasing the chance for future curative surgery in patients whose prior treatments failed. 

“His selection recognizes his important contributions to advance the understanding of human memory circuits and disruptions among people living with epilepsy,” wrote AAN. “In addition, he has a well-established record of mentoring and educational supervision of trainees at all levels and has demonstrated a dedication to scientific citizenship through his roles as a journal reviewer, national committees in epilepsy and clinical leadership.” 

The Dreifuss-Penry Epilepsy Award recognizes physicians in the early stages of their careers who have made an independent contribution to epilepsy research. The award is named for two epileptologists who made outstanding contributions to the field. 

"This award is an incredible honor to me in light of the many heroes/heroines of mine who have received it previously,” said Kleen. “I will never stop trying my best to live up to them. I owe tremendous thanks to my supportive family, my many mentors over the years, and my inspiring patients who provide the strongest motivation for advancing our field."  

Kleen will accept the award at AAN’s Annual Meeting in Boston. He will give a 10-minute oral presentation during the S30 session – “Epilepsy/Clinical Neurophysiology (EEG): Technology,” on Tuesday, April 25 from 3:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. (EDT). 

Kleen, an assistant professor in the UCSF Department of Neurology and a member of the Weill Institute for Neurosciences, is also the principal investigator of the Kleen Lab based at the UCSF Epilepsy Center. The lab’s clinical and translational research program is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and uses emerging technologies in computer science to make new discoveries about memory and cognition in humans, and how neurological diseases disrupt these crucial functions. 

Kleen earned a doctorate in neuroscience from Dartmouth College along with training in computer science and engineering. He received his medical degree from the Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine. At UCSF, he completed a residency in neurology, serving as chief resident, and a fellowship in epilepsy. He also completed postdoctoral training in human neurophysiology at UCSF. In addition to his growing research program, he continues to see patients regularly in the outpatient and inpatient settings at the UCSF Epilepsy Center.  

The Dreifuss-Penry Epilepsy Award is sponsored by the AAN and endowed by members of the AAN Epilepsy Section; Abbott Laboratories, Inc.; Cephalon, Inc.; Cyberonics, Inc.; Elan Pharmaceuticals, Inc.; GlaxoSmithKline; Novartis Neuroscience; Ortho-McNeil Neurologics; Pfizer Inc; Shire US, Inc; and UCB Pharma. 

About AAN: 

The American Academy of Neurology is the world's largest association of neurologists and neuroscience professionals, with 38,000 members. The AAN is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Alzheimer's disease, stroke, migraine, multiple sclerosis, concussion, Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. 

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