Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that affects 65 million people around the world. It is characterized by recurrent seizures – sudden disruptions of the electrical activity in the brain.
The frequency of seizures varies widely. In some cases, they can be almost continuous while in others the disease cycles over days, months or even years. Self-reported seizure diaries are not accurate enough to baseline seizure activity and there is a need for an objective measure.
Minimally invasive device
The Wyss Center is developing a minimally invasive device that enables continuous recording of the brain’s activity while people are at home, work or school. Electrodes placed under the skin of the scalp subcutaneously monitor the electrical activity of the brain. A small unit implanted either on the skull, behind the ear or under the skin of the chest, collects readings from the electrodes and communicates wirelessly with a portable device that uploads brain data to remote storage in the cloud.
Surprisingly, people with epilepsy often do not remember having a seizure and typically report only fifty percent of events. The Wyss Center device will be used to record the true number of epilepsy events that occur. It will also be used to quantitatively determine the severity of seizures, resolve unclear cases, reveal rare events, classify the type of epilepsy and help with diagnosis of the cause of seizures. In addition, it will provide an objective measurement of the success of a resective surgery by comparing the number of seizures occurring in the periods before and after the operation.
Using data collected by the device, a seizure forecast, accessible to both people with epilepsy and clinicians, will indicate the probability of an epileptic event occurring. Like a weather forecast this could help people make plans. If a seizure is likely, people could decide not to visit the mountains alone, for example.
Epilepsy monitoring in a hospital or clinic typically involves either a craniotomy and ECoG grids implanted on the cortex or monitoring via a carefully applied non-invasive EEG cap. Neither system is suitable for long-term monitoring or allows the person to leave the clinic.
The device is currently in the design and development phase. The first clinical trials are anticipated to take place by 2020.