New wristband capable of detecting seizures in people with epilepsy before they occur

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Around one in 100 people in the United States lives with epilepsy, according to the CDC. Seizure alert dogs have the training and skill to detect seizures in their owners before they occur, however, the cost and responsibility of taking care of an animal can become an obstacle for some. Now, a recent study reveals wearable technology may provide a cost-effective answer for many patients. Researchers from the Mayo Clinic say a special wristband can detect seizures about 30 minutes before they occur.

Their study sheds light on the new device, which detects certain physiological characteristics in patients with epilepsy. It records variables such as body temperature, heart rate, blood flow, and even the minute electrical changes within the skin to determine the likelihood of an oncoming seizure.

Study participants with drug-resistant epilepsy, who also had an embedded neurostimulation unit that monitored electrical neural activity, received two wristbands which they used to upload information to an external storage system. This occurred on a daily basis throughout the research, which lasted from six to 12 months.

According to senior author Benjamin Brinkmann, Ph.D., and epilepsy scientist at Mayo Clinic, this tool might allow patients with epilepsy to change their itinerary, take medicine quicker, or increase the intensity of their neurostimulator in order to avoid or reduce the symptoms of a seizure.

“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. 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,” Brinkmann says in a media release.

A noninvasive replacement for implants?

During the charging process, patients could only wear one wristband. Every day at the same hour, they would swap out their equipment. As they went about their daily routines, they utilized the devices to collect long-term data. In order to test the wrist-worn devices’ ability to predict seizures, the researchers utilized the patients’ embedded deep brain stimulation devices to validate their epileptic seizures.

According to the results, those wearing the wristband received a signal from their device an average of 30 minutes prior to experiencing a seizure. Five out of the six individuals in the test reported that the early warning system functioned well during their day.

While inserted brain devices have shown the potential to predict seizures in the past, Dr. Brinkmann emphasizes that many patients do not want to go through surgery to have an implant installed.

“We hope this research with wearable devices paves the way toward integrating seizure forecasting into clinical practice in the future,” Dr. Brinkmann concludes.

Researchers note this is only a pilot study and more individuals are being recruited in order to broaden the test.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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