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Implant May Be Able to Predict Epileptic Seizures Before They Happen

Update Date: May 02, 2013 12:15 PM EDT
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Epilepsy is a condition in which a person's regular neurological behavior is disrupted by electrical activity, triggering seizures. The neurological condition affects 50 million people worldwide, as many as 80 percent of whom live in developing countries. For many people, the unpredictable seizures can be managed by taking continuous medication, but as many as 40 percent of people with epilepsy find that medication is unable to prevent their seizures. As a result, researchers have created a device that may be able to predict seizures.

According to Health Day, the device consists of electrodes that are placed between the skull and the brain and an implant that is inserted under the skin of a person's chest. The small trial only involved 15 people at three hospitals in Australia. For the first four months, the BBC reports that the device was simply supposed to collect data about the person's brain's electrical signals before a seizure. During that time, the implant was able to successfully predict when a person had a high risk of a seizure 65 percent of the time.

Afterwards, eight people progressed to the next stage of the trial. At that point, they received notifications of the brain activity that the implant had received. The implant had varying successes with the warning system, able to successfully predict whether people would suffer from seizures between 56 percent and 100 percent of the time over those four months. According to AFP, the device lit in blue for a low seizure probability, white for moderate and red for high risk.

Since the implant is still in the developmental phase, it would likely not hold that much benefit for people who suffer from seizures once in a while, especially with the risk of false alarms. It would also likely not be that helpful for people who have many seizures a month. In all likelihood, the implant would hold the most benefit for people who receive a few spontaneous seizures a month.

In fact, the device was also able to help sufferers gain further illumination on their own condition. One person who was enrolled in the study reported that they suffered from 11 seizures a month. In fact, because seizures can include convulsions, unconsciousness as well as more subtle changes like staring spells and differences in smell perception, the number was actually over 100.

"Knowing when a seizure might happen could dramatically improve the quality of life and independence of people with epilepsy and potentially allow them to avoid dangerous situations such as driving or swimming," lead author Mark Cook from the University of Melbourne in Australia said in a statement.

The study was published in the journal The Lancet.

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