Today, someone living with epilepsy can have a relatively normal quality of life through the use of medications or, if pharmaceuticals prove unsuccessful, surgical procedures or neurostimulator implants. However, despite adhering to a strict treatment regimen, an epileptic can still have seizures. A new wrist-worn device aims to warn the wearer when they’re going to have a seizure, so they can take the necessary steps to prevent it or minimize its effects.
In a small-scale study published in Scientific Reports, researchers at the Mayo Clinic tested a wristwatch monitoring device in six patients with drug-resistant epilepsy. All patients had previously undergone a neurostimulator transplant procedure.
Each patient received two recording devices to be worn on the wrist, which were switched out periodically to be charged, as well as an electronic tablet which stored data transmitted from the devices. All patients wore the devices throughout the course of the day while engaging in their normal activities.
The wrist devices tracked the patients’ heart rate, body temperature, blood flow, and their general movements. After being uploaded to the cloud, the resulting data was analyzed by an algorithm. Finally, the patients’ implanted neurostimulators, which were used to confirm the onset of seizures, helped the researchers measure the accuracy of the wrist devices.
The resulting data led to the effective identification of seizure patterns in five out of six of the participants. Specifically, the wrist-worn device was able to notify the patients 30 minutes before the onset of a seizure, allowing them to prepare in advance.
“Just as a reliable weather forecast helps people plan their activities, so, too, could seizure forecasting help patients living with epilepsy adjust their plans if they knew a seizure was imminent,” said Benjamin Brinkmann, Ph.D., an epilepsy researcher at the Mayo Clinic and senior author of the study.
“This study using a wrist-worn device shows that providing reliable seizure forecasts for people living with epilepsy is possible without directly measuring brain activity.”
Possible future uses
Although brain implants to predict seizures do exist, they are not an ideal option for many epileptics due to the invasive nature of an implant. A device worn on the wrist, much like an Apple Watch, could be much more attractive for epilepsy sufferers.
“We hope this research with wearable devices paves the way toward integrating seizure forecasting into clinical practice in the future,” said Brinkmann.
Written by Natan Rosenfeld