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Wireless Tech for Epilepsy Sufferers

Wireless Tech for Epilepsy Sufferers

Epilepsy affects one out of every 100 people, with more than 500,000 people in the UK and around 50 million in the world suffering from the condition. But epilepsy is notoriously difficult to diagnose and a sufferer needs to have had more than one seizure for it to be considered because many people have at least one non-epileptic seizure in their lifetime.

The cap has EEG sensors built in

But that could be about to change with a simple t-shirt and cap.

If you imagine the brain is a computer, with electrical signals running in and out to help it run properly. If these signals are interrupted, the computer malfunctions for a moment, or in the case of epileptics, cause the brain to behave strangely, sending confused signals into the rest of the body. This can cause a seizure, random bodily movement, sudden or intense emotion, or maybe a trance-like state (among other various symptoms) while the brain effectively reboots.First, though, you might have some idea of what kind of condition epilepsy is, but without witnessing anything firsthand, there can be misconceptions – as with any medical condition. Epilepsy does not just mean having seizures all the time, though seizures are the most common symptom.

Epilepsy usually manifests in childhood, and some people who suffer as a child find they grow out of it. However, this is not the case for many people, and there is technically no cure (though sometimes surgery can remove the area of the brain triggering the seizures). The most common treatment for the condition is medication which helps control the seizures, but it can take a long time to find the right medication and dose for a particular person.

Dr Vincent Navarro, a neurologist at Paris’ Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, explained that this is because epileptic disorders and symptoms widely vary and can react to different medications in different ways.

“Moreover, seizures happen at an irregular rate,” Dr Navarro said. “It is, therefore, rare to record a seizure while doing a standard EEG recording of 20 minutes to one hour.” He added that around a fifth of all “non-epileptic events” are wrongly thought to be linked with epilepsy.

Left unchecked, a person suffering from some of the more severe epileptic disorders can seriously injure themselves, or even damage their brain (for information on what to do if you see someone having a seizure, click here).

Signals are sent from the shirt to the smartphone

But a system now in development could whittle down the waiting time for an epilepsy diagnosis from potentially years to only weeks, maybe even days.

Two organisations, the UK’s Epilepsy Action and France’s Efappe, and a medical device company in France called Bioserenity, have collaborated to create the WEMU system.

The idea of the system is to make monitoring and diagnosis of epilepsy so much easier, simply by removing the wires. No more fixed monitoring systems with the patient heavily hooked up to a machine. Instead, the person wears a smart-shirt and an optional smart-hat with biometric sensors inside. These sensors feed information to a smartphone app through a wireless internet connection.

Pierre Frouin, Bioserenity founder and CEO, explained that the brain’s electrical activity needs to be recorded with an EEG (electroencephalogram), but the signal is so small that it is very hard to catch. “It is a signal that’s a microvolt, as opposed to an electrocardiogram [ECG] which is a millivolt, so it’s a thousand times smaller,” he explained. “The smartphone will do the first level of intelligence, and the internet connection will send that information to a cloud system [to be analysed].”

The shirt has sensors built in

This means that a person with suspected epilepsy will not have to spend their time lying in a hospital bed hooked up to an EEG machine. They can, instead, go about their day in their usual way, being monitored in a non-intrusive way. Not only could this also help to more quickly determine how a person’s condition responds to a particular medication, but because the system monitors epileptic behaviours, the app allows the patient’s device to sound an alarm in conditions where there is a high risk of a seizure occurring.

 Living with epilepsy is by no means a picnic, and anything that can make life that little bit easier can only bring a smile to the faces of people suffering from epilepsy around the world.

Image Source: WEMU Indiegogo page


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