The world’s first study of its kind demonstrates that epileptic seizures in humans can be predicted by a device implanted in the brain, say researchers at the University of Melbourne, Australia.
“Knowing when a seizure might happen could dramatically improve the quality of life and independence of people with epilepsy,” said lead researcher Professor Mark Cook, Chair of Medicine at the University of Melbourne and Director of Neurology at St Vincent’s Hospital. Researchers at Royal Melbourne Hospital and Austin Health, Australia also contributed to the study.
Professor Cook, his team, and Professors Terry O’Brien and Sam Berkovic, worked with researchers at NeuroVista, Seattle-based company, to develop the device. It can be implanted between the skull and brain surface to monitor long-term electrical signals in the brain (EEG data).
A second device that is implanted under the chest transmits to electrodes n the brain which are then sent to a handheld device. The device has differently colored lights that measuresthe possibility of an epileptic seizures. The warning lights show the possibility of a seizure within hours as high (red), moderate (white), or low (blue).
The two-year study followed 15 people with epilepsy between 20 to 62 years of age who experienced 2 to 23 seizures per month. The participants did not control their symptoms with existing treatments.
The system correctly predicted seizures with a high warning, 65 percent of the time. The device predicted seizures correctly in eight of the 11 patients between 56 and 100 percent of the time.
“One to two percent of the population have chronic epilepsy and up to 10 percent of people will have a seizure at some point in their lives, so it’s very common. It’s debilitating because it affects young people predominantly and it affects them often across their entire lifespan,” Professor Cook said.
“The problem is that people with epilepsy are, for the most part, otherwise extremely well. So their activities are limited entirely by this condition, which might affect only a few minutes of every year of their life, and yet have catastrophic consequences like falls, burns and drowning.”