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Miniature device implanted in brain could monitor and treat epilepsy


16 August, 2007  

Purdue University researchers have developed a new miniature device designed to be implanted in the brain to predict and prevent epileptic seizures. They have developed a tiny transmitter three times the width of a human hair to be implanted below the scalp to detect the signs of an epileptic seizure before it occurs. The system will record neural signals relayed by electrodes in various points in the brain.

“When epileptics have a seizure, a particular part of the brain starts firing in a way that is abnormal,” said Pedro Irazoqui, an assistant professor of biomedical engineering. “Being able to record signals from several parts of the brain at the same time enables you to predict when a seizure is about to start, and then you can take steps to prevent it.”

Data from the implanted transmitter will be picked up by an external receiver, also being developed by the Purdue researchers. The transmitter consumes 8.8 milliwatts, about one-third as much power as other implantable transmitters while transmitting 10 times more data, and can collect data related to epileptic seizures from 1,000 channels, or locations in the brain. The electrodes that pick up data will be inserted directly in the brain through holes in the skull and then connected to the transmitter by wires.

“We are planning on doing human testing in two years,” Irazoqui said. “Epilepsy affects about 1% of the global population, and of that 1%, 30% don’t respond to any drugs. There is no cure or treatment for those 30%.”