Monitoring brain activity in epilepsy
Why is new technology needed to diagnose epilepsy?
Impacting people’s lives and the economy, an estimated 50 million people worldwide live with epilepsy .
Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in which abnormal brain activity causes seizures that can affect movement, cause temporary loss of awareness, sensation and mood.
These seizures are mostly unpredictable, which means that people with epilepsy may not be able to work, drive or carry out everyday activities.
Epilepsy is diagnosed and monitored by observing the electrical activity of the brain using electroencephalography (EEG).
Currently neurologists rely on a combination of patient seizure diaries and EEG recordings taken during clinic visits to assess and adjust seizure control medication.
However, patients are often unaware of many of their seizures and clinic recordings only provide a short snapshot.
A way to reliably monitor seizures over time will make it easier for clinicians to provide the correct treatment and give people with epilepsy more control over their life.
It will also benefit the safety, mental health and employability of people with epilepsy.
A new way to record seizures over time
Bionics Institute researchers worked closely with leading neurologist Professor Mark Cook to develop a device designed to record brain activity (EEG) long-term.
The device comprises a small implant under the scalp linked to an external processor behind the ear, which sends recordings to a phone app for analysis.
The recordings aim to give doctors an accurate record of seizures over time, which could be used to tailor drug treatments, reduce the likelihood of seizures and improve life for people with epilepsy.
In 2018, Professor Mark Cook and the Bionics Institute set up a commercial venture, Epi-Minder Pty Ltd, to manufacture and market this technology to ensure it benefits patients around the world.
Clinical trials commenced in 2019 and the results are being used to further develop the device for a larger clinical trial.
Data from the clinical trial is being used to assess the long-term safety and stability of the epiminder device. This will be used by the team to develop the next generation implant and move towards a larger, multi-centre clinical trial.
In 2021, Epi-Minder formed a collaboration with Seer Medical to extend the capability of the device to predict seizures using cloud technology.
The new technology will use an app-based platform to warn patients of impending seizures via their phone, allowing them to move to a safe place and regain more control over their lives.
The research team
A/Prof Chris Williams, Professor Mark Cook, Dr Yuri Benovitski, Alexia Saunders, Owen Burns, Rodney Millard, Mark Harrison and A/Prof Graeme Rathbone.
Dr John Heasman and the team at Epi-Minder, Dr Alan Lai and Associate Professor Wendyl D’Souza.
Dr Kristian Bulluss and Associate Professor Michael Murphy.