Scientists at the Universities of California, Berne, and Geneva have developed a brain implant that can predict a patient’s risk of epileptic seizures over several days.
Scientists have previously developed systems to prevent seizures that predicted it in seconds, or at best, minutes. Our development is the first that can predict an attack several days before it starts. This will allow people with disabilities to plan their lives without fear.
Vikram Rao, MD, a neurologist at the UCSF Epilepsy Center, part of UCSF Helen
For decades, researchers have studied epilepsy, working on models of electrical activity in the brain that signal an impending seizure, but this has not been effective enough. According to the authors of the study, this is because technology has limited the area of recording brain activity from a few days to weeks at most in an artificial hospital.
At the UCSF Epilepsy Center, a large specialist center for patients in the western United States, Rao decided to test a brain stimulation implant for the first time: it could quickly stop seizures at the first sign. This device, the NeuroPace RNS System, also allowed Rao’s team to study the brain activity before and during an attack. Scientists have documented this activity for several years.
After that, they analyzed the collected data and found that there is a pattern in epileptic seizures. Seizures are divided into weekly and monthly cycles of “brain irritability,” which predict whether a seizure is likely to be high or low.
The researchers decided to test their theory on 157 patients with epilepsy. As a result, scientists were able to identify in patients with periods when the likelihood of a seizure was increased by 10 times: in some volunteers, this risk was predicted several days in advance. The researchers note that an attack’s increased risk does not mean that it is guaranteed to happen. It is more like weather forecasts, which are becoming more accurate every year. Scientists are planning to improve their system further and increase its accuracy.