Epilepsy affects 50 million people worldwide, but in a third of these cases, medication cannot keep seizures from occurring. One solution is to shoot a short pulse of electricity to the brain to stamp out the seizure just as it begins to erupt. But brain implants designed to do this have run into a stubborn problem: too many false alarms, triggering unneeded treatment. To solve this, Johns Hopkins biomedical engineers have devised new seizure detection software that, in early testing, significantly cuts the number of unneeded pulses of current that an epilepsy patient would receive.
Sridevi V. Sarma, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering, is leading this effort to improve anti-seizure technology that sends small amounts of current into the brain to control seizures.
"These devices use algorithms -- a series of mathematical steps --to figure out when to administer the treatment," Sarma said. "They're very good at detecting when a seizure is about to happen, but they also produce lots of false positives, sometimes hundreds in one day. If you introduce electric current to the brain too often, we don't know what the health impacts might be. Also, too many false alarms can shorten the life of the battery that powers the device, which must be replaced surgically."
Her new software was tested on real-time brain activity recordings collected from four patients with drug-resistant epilepsy who experienced seizures while being monitored. In a study published recently in the journal Epilepsy & Behavior, Sarma's team reported that its system yielded superior results, including flawless detection of actual seizures and up to 80 percent fewer alarms when a seizure was not occurring. Although the testing was not conducted on patients in a clinical setting, the results were promising.
"We're making great progress in developing software that is sensitive enough to detect imminent seizures without setting off a large number of false
|Contact: Phil Sneiderman|
Johns Hopkins University